Unpredictability a Challenge in Healthcare Staffing

Healthcare is one of a few industries that never quit. Hospitals and nursing homes are open through weekends, holidays, weather catastrophes and emergencies, with shifts running 24/7. The need for constant staffing and a shift in priorities toward increasing profits has combined to create a staffing maelstrom in which unpredictability is the norm – sometimes, to the detriment of workers and patients.

In their new book Unequal Time, University of Massachusetts sociologists Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel break down the movement toward unpredictability as it affects different healthcare workers. Through interviews with multiple workers they determined that while most are experiencing greater unpredictability, the greatest impact is felt by nurses, nursing assistants, and other low-wage healthcare workers.

As mentioned above, the dueling priorities of constant staffing and showing profits lead many healthcare facilities to schedule the minimum possible number of staff for a given shift. When a nurse or aide becomes ill or is otherwise unable to come in, it creates a coverage gap that others must scramble to cover – there is no overlap of extra hands to help out.

Low-wage healthcare workers are often at a greater disadvantage. Demographically, nurses and nurse assistants are overwhelmingly female, with children, and may or may not have a support system in place to handle personal emergencies. Restrictive sick time and attendance policies force these workers to come in even when they are ill, as one of the subjects of Unequal Time shared with Clawson and Gerstel. It should go without saying that workers who come in while ill then put the patients in their care at greater risk.

While this book covered healthcare workers in a facility setting, home care workers often suffer from similar issues of unpredictability and low wages. However, beginning January 1, 2015 home care workers in most circumstances will be covered under federal and state labor laws governing minimum wage and overtime. (Workers can use the Department of Labor’s self-assessment to determine eligibility.)

Nurses and healthcare workers in some states are pushing for changes in staffing ratios, but healthcare staffing agencies can take a proactive approach with their workers by clearly communicating staffing schedules (and not changing them unless absolutely necessary) and implementing less stringent policies governing sick days.

Healthcare staffing agencies that need an additional boost in working capital to take care of their workers may find a solution in healthcare staffing factoring. Access immediate funding without taking on new debt, and invest in your workers with confidence. PRN Funding offers comprehensive healthcare staffing factoring programs to cover a variety of needs and situations – apply today to get started!

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