Originally published by Smart Business Cleveland.

The health care industry, for years, has been dealing with a shortage of health care professionals in medical centers, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, hospice and home health care. That issue isn’t expected to go away anytime soon as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of uncovered Americans who will soon seek health care services.

Additionally, baby boomers — a generation of more than 75 million — have reached retirement age and their need for medical care is increasing.

“The need for qualified staff is so serious that many institutions are turning to outside recruitment firms to meet their staffing needs,”

says Marco Esposito, managing director at Alliance Solutions Group.

Smart Business spoke with Esposito about the state of health care staffing and what can be done to help close the talent gap.

How will the ACA impact the health care workforce?

The most important consideration is whether the industry is ready for 30 million more Americans in our health care system? And quite honestly, the answer is no.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing estimates a need for more than 1 million registered nurses by 2022 to cover industry growth from the ACA, replace nurses who retire and care for the aging baby boomer population.

Our health care system has been strained and understaffed for years. We’ve now reached a critical point at which greater demand for service is imminent, and only those institutions that are fully staffed with top doctors, nurses and support staff will be able to succeed.

How are health care entities filling open positions? Are these methods efficient and effective?

Many positions remain unfilled, which means health care entities are forced to work their current staff more by offering, and sometimes requiring, overtime. That can lead to burnout — not something that’s desirable for people dealing with patients’ lives.

Health care entities are currently relying on their own recruitment efforts to fill permanent staff positions.

Health care staffing needs, however, rely heavily on the number of patients seeking care at any given time. While these numbers are expected to rise over time, it can be hard to predict exact needs from month-to-month. A particularly bad flu season, for example, could drive a hospital to seek additional temporary health care staff.

Many of these entities have also tried to overcome the shortage of staff by building their own PRN pool, which is a group of professionals employed by the health care facility who they can call on to work as needed. This type of program work can be expensive and very difficult to manage.

The severity of the situation is compelling many health care entities to turn to staffing agencies that have the means and expertise to recruit health care professionals.

What benefit is there in working with a staffing agency to fill open positions?

Staffing agencies have the expertise and knowledge to source, vet and recruit candidates for a given vacancy. This alleviates hospitals’ burden of trying to fill open positions and allows them to focus on their primary duty, which is patient care.

Since staffing agencies are capable of managing large databases of health care professionals, it is much easier for them to streamline the temporary staffing process and plug in the right people in the right positions quickly and efficiently.

Further, staffing agencies employ the health care professionals, which means responsibilities such as workers’ compensation, taxes and payroll are handled by an agency and not the health care facility. If or when a health care professional is no longer needed, the staffing agency handles the termination process. The burden of paying overtime is no longer an issue, nor is a lengthy recruitment and training process.

Utilizing a staffing firm, whether for temporary staffing or for a direct, permanent hire, can be very viable. Given the process efficiencies a staffing agency can provide, health care entities can realize significant cost savings and focus more of their energies and resources toward meeting the challenges of a growing patient
population.