Why Shift Staffing Automation is Crucial for Healthcare Staffing Agencies

Nurse manager who schedules shifts

Imagine a world where healthcare staffing is as seamless and on-demand as hailing a ride to any destination of your choice via mobile apps like Uber and Lyft. That's the future we're building. As the current VP of Contingent Talent Management at symplr, I started my career in healthcare staffing in 1992. Back then, filling a shift required reaching out to a list of temporary employees, each of whom you had developed personal relationships with, to schedule their available time. Eventually, systems were developed to store credentials, find matches for new shifts, and track schedules on an electronic calendar. As these systems matured, communication with employees improved with the advent of email and texting, which seemed like a modern-day miracle.  

Although it was slow to evolve and make its way into healthcare staffing, in the last couple of years, the uberization of shift staffing has skyrocketed in terms of employees’ engagement expectations. If your staffing platform does not support 24/7 self-scheduling functionality, you’re risking your staffing agency’s future. It will be harder to attract and retain employees who would rather take charge of their own schedule than rely on an agency staffer. 

Below are some of the most appreciated features to look for in a healthcare staffing platform:

Facility-specific credentialing & proactive compliance 

Getting and keeping a caregiver credentialed to work for as many clients as possible is essential to success. Without this feature, you are spinning your wheels notifying unqualified employees about shifts they cannot fill until their credentialing issues are addressed. Look for a solution with a strong credentialing rules engine that can build and monitor an employee-specific profile based on the client facility offering shifts. Seek a system that can not only evaluate a caregiver’s current state of compliance at the time of scheduling but can also look into the future to proactively prevent non-compliance.  

Shift matching & alerts 

We all know that caregivers and facilities work with more than one agency. The first agency to present a shift or qualified worker is generally going to fill it, meaning timing is everything. Self-scheduling platforms should poll your database of employees upon new order entry, find qualified matches, and immediately send text alerts to their mobile device. The system should provide configurable rules to control notifications; for instance, never alerting those already scheduled to prevent shift swapping.  Other rules you should manage include double shift booking, overtime prevention, commuting distances, and text alert fatigue.

Maximizing attention 

Filling a single shift with a text alert is good. Filling several shifts and locking up as much of an employee’s available schedule should be your system’s goal. Every alert engagement for a single shift should end with other shift suggestions. You cannot accomplish this with a system that allows a direct text response. Instead, look for a feature where the text alerts take them into your system’s mobile experience where, after they schedule the alerted shift, it presents other shift opportunities.  

Simple timecard collection & approval 

The quickest way to lose a good caregiver is to make a payroll mistake or make it difficult. This can be a challenge when client facilities have different time collection and approval requirements. The right technology can overcome this problem with the following feature options: 

Configurable time collection  

Look for client configurable options that include mobile, geofenced punching that creates a digital timecard, legacy paper timecard or sign-in sheets, and import of facility clocking data. 

Configurable time approval  

Look for client configurations that include electronic signature on caregiver mobile device, upload of signed legacy paper timecard or sign-in sheet, and health system centralized timecard review and approval. 

Timely pay creation 

Most caregivers that work per diem expect daily payment. There are two options to accomplish this, and the most flexible systems support both. 

Daily advances 

A daily advance is paying a caregiver a portion of their paycheck, withholding an estimated amount to cover taxes that are calculated and withheld on the final pay period check. 

Net daily pay 

Systems that can support net daily payroll can create a fully taxed check daily. The advantage of this over advances is the caregiver gets 100% of their pay at the end of every shift. 

Flexible paycheck distribution 

Delivering a paycheck in the manner a caregiver prefers is a powerful satisfaction feature. Systems that support the various methods will allow you to fulfill their preferences. Paycheck distribution should be offered via several options, including: 

  • Direct deposit 
  • Cash card 
  • Printed check 
  • Earned wage mobile apps 

The increasing popularity of incorporating earned wage mobile apps, such as Branch, allows your agency to provide instant pay. Depending on your agency’s pay review and processing policies, instant pay apps allow caregivers to receive payment within minutes of submitting an approved timecard.  

Finally, replacing manual processes with automation can be a daunting task, especially for those who need to build trust in automation before fully embracing it. A good feature to look for is the ability to turn automation on by client facility, so that you can test drive the functionality and make adjustments to internal operations to adopt shift staffing automation.

Embrace the future of healthcare staffing

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