May 29, 2024

Healthcare Staffing: Providing Flexibility for Future Growth

The population in the United States is aging rapidly and healthcare needs are increasing as a result. While this means more demand for medical services, it also puts stress on the nation’s healthcare workforce. Staffing shortages have become common in hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the country. In response, the healthcare staffing industry has grown tremendously to help fill these critical gaps.

The Aging Population and Increased Demand

As baby boomers reach retirement age, the number of older Americans requiring medical care is surging. An estimated 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next 16 years. This aging demographic means more patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer that require ongoing treatment and management. At the same time, life expectancies continue to increase which means people are living longer with illness and disability. These trends are fueling heightened demand for a wide range of healthcare services from primary care to post-acute and long-term care. Meeting the needs of this growing senior population will not be possible without sufficient staffing at every level of the healthcare system.

Beyond aging demographics, other factors are contributing to rising demand as well. Advances in medical technology and procedures allow more complex care to be provided outside of hospitals. An increased focus on preventative care and managing chronic conditions requires a larger public health workforce. All of these demand drivers are putting pressure on an already strained healthcare labor market. U.S. healthcare staffing  agencies have become indispensable in filling open positions that provider organizations cannot fill on their own.

Provider Staffing Challenges and the Emergence of Healthcare Staffing

Healthcare facilities face immense difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified clinical and non-clinical staff for several reasons. Reimbursement rates for many services are too low to support competitive salaries. The physical and emotional demands of patient care lead to high burnout rates. Inflexible schedules strain work-life balance. Organizations struggle to keep pace with constantly evolving regulations, practices, and technologies requiring ongoing education. These challenges have amplified existing shortages of nurses, physicians, medical technicians, and other core occupations.

As staff vacancies lingered unfilled, healthcare systems turned to specialized staffing firms for assistance in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Startups emerged to connect qualified temporary workers with facilities urgently needing coverage. Over time, these companies expanded their service offerings and grew into large national and multinational agencies. Staffing agencies now assist providers with sourcing, credentialing, and placement for temporary, temporary-to-permanent, and permanent positions both clinical and non-clinical roles.

Common Types of Healthcare Staffing Specialties

A few examples highlight some of the most commonly staffed specialties across the industry:

Nursing: Registered nurses, licensed practical/vocational nurses, and certified nursing assistants are always in high demand. Many of the largest staffing firms solely focus on nursing roles and specialties like intensive care, pediatrics, surgery, etc.

Allied Health: Specialties like medical technicians, occupational/physical therapists, speech language pathologists, medical imaging specialists, and others experience chronic shortages that staffing helps address.

Physicians and Advanced Practice Providers: Emergency medicine, hospitalists, intensivists, primary care providers, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are among the medical specialties most staffed.

Non-Clinical Support: Positions such as medical coders, health information management staff, lab assistants, administrative assistants, and more provide essential operational support to healthcare entities.

Post-Acute: Skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, senior living communities, and home healthcare agencies frequently use staffing for nurses, therapists, and caregivers.

Staffing Firm Service Offerings Beyond Placement

While filling vacancies remains the core function, modern staffing companies provide a spectrum of additional value-added services:

Candidate Sourcing: Agencies tap their large networks of clinicians, connections with travel nursing firms, and online job boards to source appropriate candidates rapidly.

Onboarding & Compliance: Firms handle licensing verifications, credentialing, reference/background checks, drug tests, and orientations to simplify legal onboarding.

Payrolling: Staffing companies directly pay, insure, and handle tax compliance for temporary healthcare workers to reduce client administrative overhead.

Continuous Education: Many invest in tuition reimbursement programs and tailored clinical training tools to develop and retain a talented permanent bench of healthcare professionals.

Demand Forecasting: Leveraging vast data resources, agencies forecast future staffing needs, market trends, and changes to help clients strategically plan years in advance.

Performance Consulting: Some partner with facilities to audit current staffing models, identify optimization opportunities, and recommend process improvements that enhance quality of care.

The Critical Impact and Continued Growth of Healthcare Staffing

Healthcare staffing has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry and crucial infrastructure that enables the entire system to function. By expertly connecting talented medical professionals with facilities that need their services, staffing companies ensure timely access to care for millions of patients each year. They also support clinicians who value flexible schedules offered through temporary positions. With demand drivers showing no signs of slowing, the staffing model will continue expanding to new specialties and take on larger, more strategic roles within the healthcare ecosystem going forward. Overall, the industry’s impact on service delivery and workforce optimization cannot be understated as coverage shortfalls threaten the well-being of providers and patients alike.

1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.      We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it