Centralized Staffing During the COVID-19 Crisis
Across the country, healthcare organizations are responding to COVID-19 by following their outlined Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) or disaster plan and are setting up a command center to make sure the organization can deploy the right staff in the right place at the right time. With demand for critical care services increasing and elective procedures being cancelled, creating staffing plans that leverage all available staff to meet patient care needs while also managing nurse fatigue, staff safety, and cost containment will require a centralized approach to staffing processes, policies and decisions.
Key Success Factors for a Centralized Approach to Staffing
A centralized staffing approach takes a big picture view of staffing needs across the entire enterprise, enabling the organization to balance available staff to best meet patient needs on a larger scale. With an eye on current and upcoming needs, a centralized approach pulls from all available resources to meet patient care needs. Whether they are deploying float pool staff, moving staff across units and/or facilities, or calling in available staff to fill open shifts, a centralized staffing team can use technology tools and their knowledge about available staffing resources to make data-driven decisions that provide the best possible staffing plan for the organization as a whole.
Here are some guidelines that can help make a centralized staffing approach successful:
- Standardized policies and processes – With a centralized staffing approach, the policies and processes that have been established can be implemented consistently. That minimizes confusion and maximizes efficiency. This blog post provides ideas about staffing policies and processes that should be reviewed in preparation for COVID-19.
- Centrally manage call-ins – With a dedicated team fielding calls from staff who are unable to work, it’s easier to have a clear picture of staffing gaps across the entire organization. In addition, staff who are ill or quarantined can be marked as unavailable to work so that they are not scheduled or called in until it’s safe for them to return to work.
- Streamline processes to fill open shifts – The central staffing office has broader visibility into available staffing resources. In addition, they can leverage technology, such as sending open shift notifications via a mobile app, to streamline the process of filling open shifts.
- Optimize PRN staff – Our optimization experts often find that health systems are suffering from FTE leakage when PRN staff are not working up to their full commitment. A centralized approach can help ensure that any available PRN staff are fulfilling their work commitments and are fully optimized to meet increased patient care needs.
- Intra-shift adjustments – The response to COVID-19 needs to be rapid and flexible. With a centralized team managing the complexities of patient care needs, appropriate staffing adjustments can be made throughout the day.
We are facing unprecedented circumstances, required to use every tool at our disposal to meet the challenges of COVID-19. With staffing at the very heart of patient care, health systems are focusing on the best way to safely deploy their staff so that patient care needs are met. Using a centralized approach to staffing and scheduling is one way that health systems can optimize their workforce to deliver safe, high quality patient care in the midst of a pandemic.
About Kristi Burgess
Kristi holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with over 23 years of nursing experience in critical care, community health, flight nursing, leadership and nursing education. In her roles as Principal Advisory Services and Customer Executive at API Healthcare, Kristi serves as a strategic partner for her customers. She supports customers by gaining an understanding of their core initiatives and facilitates an aligned roadmap to optimize their Workforce Management strategy. Prior to joining API, Kristi served in various leadership and sales roles for ATI Nursing Education. She formerly held the position as nursing faculty at Jacksonville State University in the undergraduate and graduate programs.