Scale Your Nurse Staffing Needs Like a Pro

As recruiters, you constantly sift through stacks of resumes to find nurses with unique and diverse skill sets.

The demand for nurse staffing in advanced care specialties, including hospice and palliative care, will continue to grow as baby boomers enter their golden years, said Brian K. Davis, RN and CEO of Vitas Healthcare.

Davis recently spoke at the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care’s National Summit on Advanced Illness Care in Denver. He offered key hiring strategies for healthcare providers who tackle workforce scaling challenges, such as nurse staffing.

It’s vital that facilities plan ahead and communicate well to meet growing demands, especially for specialty care nurses, Davis stressed.

Here are some some key takeaways recruiters and HR professionals can use to plan accordingly for future nurse staffing needs.

Q: How do you scale the workforce, specifically for nurses, the largest healthcare profession?

A: To make good hiring decisions, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of reimbursements and payments. You should ask which disciplines you are able to hire, based on the reimbursement structure.

As you look at the patient base that you’re providing care for, you must have a deep understanding of these patients.

Recruiters can then ask themselves and others across the organization some basic questions, such as “If you are going to hire nurses, will they be contract, full time, part time or pier diem?”

Nurse staffing needs vary depending on whether staffing needs are in an inpatient setting, outpatient clinic or a community-based setting.

Recruiters also need to ask, “How many visits will patients require on a weekly basis? Do they require 24/7 service or from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday?”

To scale a workforce the organization really needs to understand the needs of that patient.

Q: These seem like basic questions. Aren’t healthcare organizations already asking these questions?

A: Yes, I think organizations do. But to what degree are they doing this?

An organization that works from a strategic business plan needs to also match up with and mirror the HR and recruitment plan.

From an operations perspective, I need to sit down with HR and explain what my palliative care plan is, so they understand what recruitment efforts need to look like.

We must do a better job of integrating the HR and recruitment process closer to the beginning rather than the middle or end of the hiring process.

In operations, many times we go to HR and recruitment folks once we already have an operations plan in place. I think it’s important to bring HR in and craft a plan earlier in the process, so it gets everyone to the same place.

Q:  What should you take into consideration while scaling up or down?

A: As an organization, you have to take a hard look and determine the nurse staffing needs that are necessary to provide care at the highest level. Then evaluate your current staffing and determine whether you need to recruit and scale up or if you are overstaffed.

You need to decide if you can pull from your existing labor pool to staff up. Or do you have opportunities for staff to go into different departments?

Recruitment may be out constantly looking for bench strength while operations decided to scale down, which is a good example of why HR and recruitment must be aligned with operations.

If operations and HR are not in the same loop, the organization may have staff they can move around. I might have five full-time nurses who may be fantastic and I don’t want to lose them, so I just need to transition them into new departments.

The organization will be communicating the value it sees in these employees by placing them in a different department and providing training, so they can learn new job duties. These employees will continue to think positive about the organization and keep providing high-quality care because they are a happy, engaged employees.

Q:  How do you know if your scaling efforts are working?

A: One of the important things we look at is bench strength — making sure we have an adequate number of people available to provide the services we want to provide.

You have to ask, “Do we have a talent pool that has interest in the services we provide?”

As we look at scaling a workforce, and think about hospice and palliative care, as an example, it’s an integrated model. And it’s such a valuable career path for nurses because nurses can cross train, learn a new a skill set and grow professionally within the same organization.

That means they may be able to advance their career, from front line nurses to managers and directors.

Q: What are some indicators that your scaling plan needs to be tweaked?

A: Red flags that things are not working appropriately with nurse staffing are when you start to see nurse burnout and increased turnover and nurses start asking to change nurse duties.