Healthcare Staffing for Fluctuating Census During Winter Months

Healthcare Jobs

As we slide firmly into the holiday season with pumpkin spiced lattes and spooky scrubs, administrators and managers in hospitals and medical centers across the nation are trying to plan and project for patient intake fluctuations and how to safely, appropriately, and efficiently staff their facilities all while concerning themselves with the economic implications as well. If they overstaff, the resulting costs are problematic, and yet we all know that if they understaff the results can be chaotic or burdensome at best and downright dangerous at worst.

Low Census

Depending on your perspective, a low census situation in a facility could be both good and bad. It’s good from the perspective of a community member who generally wishes people well. After all, low census in the hospital means fewer people needing healthcare services, which in turn means less pain or suffering.

Yet, from the perspective of a healthcare administrator low census means less net income, and in a highly competitive industry dealt a brutal blow by COVID these last two years, low census coupled with too many staff would be financially irresponsible and best avoided. 

2021 Benefits Survey of Hospitals

This year marks 16 years for Aon’s Benefits Survey of Hospital report which analyzed data from 150 health systems, over 1,150 hospitals, and 2.4+ million employees. In this report, the data covers a variety of topics and desired outcomes for hospitals nationwide. According to the report,

“While priorities have shifted over the last year, healthcare employers rank improvement of health outcomes as their highest priority. As a provider, it makes sense that this concern is at the top of the list each year. In light of COVID-19, there is also an urgency as an industry to address health disparities and ensure the health and safety of vulnerable communities.”

To show an improvement of health outcomes, facilities must have appropriate staff to patient ratios and adequate skilled staff for all levels including allied health workers, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and registered nurses (RNs). 

Economics and Staffing

 The pandemic has had devastating effects on health care systems economics, that linger. From the beginning of 2020 to the mid-year of 2020, hospital operation margins dropped a staggering 96%. For 2021, more than a third of hospitals nationwide will be operating in negative margins through the end of the year. This emphasizes the need for hospitals to effectively and efficiently staff their facilities by preparing for fluctuations. 

How Can Facilities Adjust for Fluctuations Effectively and Efficiently?

Many operate by using a fixed average census approach, which while certainly helpful, has its limits. More and more the medical community is investigating more paths for projecting census levels which include analyzing environmental factors that can come into play and acknowledging known risk factors such as the increased cardiac mortality during the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (also referred to as “the Merry Christmas Coronary and Happy New Year Heart Attack phenomenon” in an article by Robert A Kloner).

Moreover, by maintaining a baseline rate of full time employed staff, and adjusting for rises in patient census by utilizing per diem staff (PRN). A facility spends an enormous amount of money (and time which still equals money) to hire, prepare, train, and provide benefits to its staff. So how does this save the facility money, when we know that PRN staff often earn a higher hourly pay rate than other paid staff?

PRN staff don’t earn benefits from the facility, neither do they consume their admittedly limited resources for a lengthy and in-depth hiring process. PRN staff come to fill in for a shift as already trained, already skilled and certified, with background checks and references already cleared and checked by the PRN staffing agency. Yes, their compensation rate is often higher than that of a full-time employee, and yet the monetary gains made by not having to secure a long-term employment commitment offset the elevated hourly rate. 

Utilize NursaTM as Your PRN Staffing Agency with Speed, Success, and Satisfaction

At NursaTM we bring a wider and more varied pool of skilled clinicians to your facility than any other. How? Our staffing process has been fully streamlined to be available to any clinician, anywhere, by downloading our free smartphone application.

Our talent pool is responsible for gathering their own resume and reference documents, certifications, vaccination records, background checks, and all other compliance documents and uploading it into their virtual digital portfolio. They can then browse all the available PRN shifts at all the facilities in their geographic area of searching.

This allows facilities to reach clinicians in other cities or neighboring towns who are willing to commute that you otherwise never would have heard of, and likewise they may have never known of your PRN needs.

It allows facility administrators to simply upload their shift and skill needs to the platform and then simply move on to other important work tasks while waiting for hundreds of potential PRN staff consider your shifts and apply. The facility only pays for shifts that have been filled and completed. Post as many shifts as you need, without limit. You’ll have access to your posts to review, change, and manage as well as our customer support with our chat interface within the app.

We have a great record of filling shifts quickly! Our data shows that in cities that already have verified clinicians as NursaTM users, we can fill urgent shift needs within 24 hours, even to facilities registering for the first time. Less urgent needs are typically filled within three or four days, and for facilities in new cities within seven days we can expect to see shifts beginning to fill. Get started today by registering your facility and expanding your sights.

Written by Miranda Booher, RN

SEO Content Marketing Manager Miranda is a 14-year registered nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and digital marketing. She brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has an impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Bolivia, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her spending time with her family traveling in the Andes Mountains.

Download the App Now

Download the App Now