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July 19, 2021

How to Keep Your Shifts Covered This Summer

Maintaining nurse staffing ratios is always a challenge during vacation season, especially this year. Follow these flexible staffing tips to make sure you're prepared for the gaps.

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After more than a year of overwhelming stress and anxiety, hospital staff are taking well-deserved summer vacations. With most hospitals already short-staffed, maintaining nurse staffing ratios will be even more difficult as people get some R&R.

But with advance planning and flexible staffing solutions at hand, you can wish your clinicians bon voyage while the rest of your team continues to deliver excellent care. 

Follow these guidelines to keep your staffing ratios balanced during vacation season. And note that, by laying the groundwork now, your department will be better prepared for future times of staffing variability.

Ensure that you have Smart HR Policies

Start by working with your HR department to develop vacation policies that fit your team. For example, many hospitals limit the number of staff that can take vacation at any one time and/or develop vacation policies based on staff seniority. 

Fill Your Float Pool

local per diem nurse picking up shift on her phone

Prepare for short- and long-term absences by optimizing your float pool. First, float professionals from low-demand, fully staffed sites to short-staffed facilities. If needed, you can utilize CareRev Cascade, a feature that lets you communicate with your internal resource pool by announcing open shifts on the CareRev application. Staff can then grab those shifts quickly using the CareRev mobile app.

Optimize the use of Per-Diem Staff

Then leverage your per-diem network. The per-diem model was designed for vacation coverage. If you still need support after reaching out to your internal per-diem network, broadcast your needs to a flexible, external talent pool. CareRev’s network includes local, fully vetted per diem ER RNs, ICU RNs, Med Surg RNs, CNAs, LVNs, Surgical Technicians, and Radiologic Technicians. In minutes, you’ll reach experienced professionals ready to fill in for a single shift, a few days, a week, or longer.

Develop an Efficient Orientation

per diem nurse at computer ensuring efficient orientation processes

Per-diem talent must get up to speed quickly to provide a seamless experience for your hospital and its patients during vacation coverage. Cloud-based applications allow per-diem healthcare professionals to complete onboarding documentation and review any policies and procedures in advance from anywhere. When your per-diem clinician arrives on day one, they’ll be ready to get to work.

Roll Out the Red Carpet

You want your per-diem talent to keep coming back when you need support. To stay on their “preferred” list, make them feel welcome. Educate them on both the clinical and cultural nuances of your department. Be available to answer questions. Praise their good work. These gestures improve motivation and help per-diem professionals feel like they’re part of the group.

What Not to Do

While it’s not easy to keep a hospital adequately staffed in the summer, granting vacation requests pays off in the long run. Multiple studies have shown that taking vacation leads to improved productivity, lower stress, and improved mental health. It’s also the second-most important benefit according to Project: Time Off.

For all the good that comes from rested, rejuvenated employees, some hospitals have resorted to denying vacation for all staff, which has the opposite effect. Others have imposed overly strict blackout dates and similar practices. These tactics are legal, but they could lead to disgruntled employees.

If you haven’t developed your float pool and per-diem network yet, get started pronto. By establishing vacation procedures today that make best use of per-diem talent, you’ll be even better prepared for the fluctuations in supply and demand that take place all year long.

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