February 19, 2024

What is a Flexible Workforce & How Does it Work in Healthcare

A doctor and nurse speak in a busy hospital corridor with people walking around them.

Organizations have various workforce models at their disposal to structure and manage their staffing needs. Traditionally, businesses often adhered to more rigid models, such as full-time employment with fixed schedules. 

However, in response to the evolving nature of work and the demands of a dynamic marketplace, a newer way of thinking has emerged—the flexible workforce model. Let’s explore this new model and how it can be applied to industries, like healthcare, struggling to adapt to an evolving staffing landscape.

What is a flexible workforce?

A flexible workforce refers to a labor pool that can be easily adjusted in size and composition to meet changing organizational needs and demands. This adaptable staffing model allows employers to respond to fluctuations in workload, market conditions, or specific project requirements. 

In the context of healthcare, a flexible workforce often involves healthcare professionals, such as nurses, who have the ability to adjust their work schedules or employment arrangements based on their preferences and the dynamic needs of healthcare facilities. 

This model may include part-time, temporary, per diem, or contract workers who can be strategically deployed to address staffing shortages, seasonal variations, or unexpected peaks in patient demand. The flexibility inherent in this workforce model provides both employers and workers with agility, allowing for efficient resource allocation and improved work-life balance.

What makes a flexible workforce model in healthcare unique?

A flexible workforce model in healthcare possesses several unique properties that distinguish it from traditional staffing approaches:

1. Dynamic adaptability:

  • Tailored Scheduling: A flexible workforce model allows healthcare professionals to customize their work schedules based on personal preferences, creating a dynamic and adaptable staffing solution.
  • Real-time Adjustments: The model enables real-time adjustments to staffing levels, allowing healthcare facilities to respond promptly to fluctuating patient needs or unexpected events.

2. Autonomous decision-making:

  • Professional Autonomy: Nurses and healthcare professionals gain autonomy in selecting shifts that align with their preferences and lifestyle, fostering a sense of control over their work schedules.
  • Individual Empowerment: The model empowers healthcare workers by letting them take an active role in managing their work-life balance and career trajectory.

3. Efficient technology integration:

  • User-Friendly Platforms: Flexible workforce models often leverage user-friendly technology platforms that streamline the process of scheduling, communication, and payment, enhancing overall efficiency.
  • Transparency and Communication: Technology facilitates transparent communication between healthcare facilities and professionals, ensuring seamless coordination and information exchange.

4. Cost-effective resource allocation:

  • Optimized Resource Utilization: Healthcare organizations can optimize resource allocation by efficiently matching staffing levels with patient demand, reducing the financial impact of overstaffing or understaffing.
  • Budgetary Control: The model offers cost-effective solutions as healthcare facilities pay for services based on actual need, promoting financial sustainability.

5. Enhanced work-life balance:

  • Reduced Burnout: The flexibility inherent in this model contributes to reduced burnout among healthcare professionals, as they can balance demanding work schedules with personal commitments, ultimately promoting well-being.
  • Improved Job Satisfaction: Nurses experience increased job satisfaction when given the freedom to manage their schedules, fostering a positive work environment.

6. Strategic talent pool engagement:

  • Access to Diverse Skill Sets: Healthcare facilities can tap into a diverse pool of skilled professionals with varied expertise, ensuring that the right professionals are available for specific roles and responsibilities.
  • Increased Staffing Agility: The model provides healthcare organizations with increased staffing agility, enabling them to meet specialized needs without committing to long-term employment contracts.

7. Adaptation to seasonal demand:

  • Seasonal Flexibility: Flexible workforce models are well-suited to handle seasonal variations in patient demand, allowing healthcare facilities to scale up or down as needed during peak periods or lulls.

8. Continuous quality improvement:

  • Performance Metrics: The model often incorporates performance metrics and feedback mechanisms, facilitating continuous quality improvement by evaluating the effectiveness of the workforce strategy and adjusting as necessary.

In essence, the unique properties of a flexible workforce model in healthcare contribute to a more responsive, adaptive, and sustainable approach to staffing, benefitting both healthcare professionals and the organizations they serve.

A call for change in healthcare staffing

In the face of the ongoing staffing crisis in healthcare, facilities are compelled to rethink their traditional staffing models and embrace a more adaptive and resilient approach—the flexible workforce. The unprecedented challenges brought about by the global health crisis have exacerbated existing staffing shortages, necessitating a paradigm shift in how healthcare organizations manage their workforce. 

The flexible workforce model allows facilities to address staffing gaps promptly, leveraging part-time, temporary, or per diem professionals to meet surges in patient demand or unexpected fluctuations in staffing levels. 

By adopting a flexible workforce strategy, healthcare facilities can enhance their ability to navigate the new normal, ensuring a responsive and agile approach to staffing that aligns with the dynamic nature of the healthcare landscape. This model not only provides a practical solution to the staffing crisis but also fosters a more sustainable and adaptable healthcare workforce for the future.

Learn how CareRev can help you adopt a flexible workforce strategy.

Learn how CareRev can help