1. Stacchini, Jason

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In a perfect world, all businesses, healthcare organizations included, would have a pool of qualified employees on-call at all times, ready to deal with an unexpected influx of action. With increasingly challenging economic conditions hitting all industry levels, the possibility of having a pool of nurses from which to pull is becoming more of a dream to most hospitals and medical facilities in the United States.


How travel can help

Although you may consider turning to internal staffing pools, you can also meet this challenge through the use of regional and national travel nurse staffing companies, which answer the common needs of recruitment, expense, and complexity that hound most facilitators when creating an internal pool of nurses.


"The primary reason is the recruitment power you have in utilizing a travel staffing company that recruits from a national base rather than a local base, from which an in-house staffing pool would recruit," says Marcia Faller, senior vice president of nursing for American Mobile Healthcare, San Diego, Calif. "In terms of filling the number of positions you'd need to fill in your pool to be able to accomplish appropriate staffing levels for your hospital, you've got to have the ability to recruit that from a large bank of nurses. Most hospitals don't go out and do a lot of national recruiting, however, a travel company has access to many more nurses."


Although the nursing shortage is a concern, your facility may have the right balance of revenue, proximity to nursing institutions, and minimal patient census to allow the use of an internal pool.


"Some are able to meet all of their float pool needs with local staff and keep them filled to fulfill all of their internal staffing positions for solely internal use," Faller says. "When you're unable to do that, either because you just don't have enough or the census is unexpectedly high, that's when it's appropriate to turn to a travel company with national recruiting power."


Seasonal spikes

It's common knowledge that the travel nursing industry gained significance as a short-term answer to staffing problems across the United States. Particularly significant locations were Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, where the seasonal weather makes those states popular for tourists and the retirement population that fly south for six months.


"Retirement populations are key users in healthcare facilities, especially hospitals," Faller says. "So that seasonality of an influx of population to those particular states during winter months drives up the hospital census and, therefore, the need for additional staffing."


Although seasonality was a major factor in the creation of staffing companies where they were needed most, the geographical range of areas within the United States that benefit from staffing companies is rapidly expanding, according to Faller. This has launched a larger variety of staffing companies offering the same services at different levels of recruitment, depending on client needs.


"There are certain travel companies that are more regional players and may be more dominant in a particular region," Faller says. "There are several travel staffing companies that are national players, and they'll be able to provide on a national level."


The increase in staffing companies has created an overlap, with no particular jurisdiction for any specific company. You can find your go-to travel staffing company by building relationships based on the level of satisfaction you've received from the staff provided.


"Competition helps us all set a high bar for quality," Faller says. "And it helps provide consistent quality to nurse leaders who might experience trouble filling their internal staffing pool or who don't want to go to the expense of setting one up. These nurse leaders might be happy with the quality that's being provided out there because they have several different players from which to choose and can depend on the quality."


The cost imperative

The expense associated with maintaining an internal staffing pool is another reason for hospitals and healthcare facilities to use travel staffing companies.


"So many factors come into play with whether a hospital would use a travel staffing company over an internal pool: the microeconomics of the region, whether there are nursing schools in the region providing a continuous pool of nurses, patient census fluctuations in the facility, hospital revenue, and whether they have the resources and commitment to put forth the effort to build and maintain an internal staffing pool. There are many things beyond what's going on in the economy to dictate that," says Faller.


She believes one of the main reasons clients choose travel staffing companies is recruitability. Limited resources and the complication of process development and implementation are also key factors in creating and maintaining a successful internal pool, factors Faller believes will lead healthcare facilitators to travel staffing companies. It's up to you to decide which is the better option for your facility: internal staffing pools or travel staffing companies. Consider the benefits and concerns related to both before making the right choice for your staff.