What to Look for When Choosing a Staffing Agency for Your Senior Care Facility

Tony Braswell

Tony Braswell, CEO, Gale Healthcare Solutions

The nursing shortage means that staffing is a constant concern for most senior care facilities. According to the American Nurses Association, more than 100,000 registered nurse job openings become available each year. By 2022, there will be more registered nurse job vacancies than there will be vacancies within any other profession.

Additionally, more than 500,000 registered nurses are projected to retire by 2022, meaning that the nursing shortage is likely to get worse.

As a result, senior care facilities need to find effective ways to staff shifts, and staffing agencies can help. But to get the best results out of working with any staffing agency, a senior care facility needs to carefully screen it to make sure it’s the best fit.

How Staffing Agencies Can Help

Staffing agencies can help senior care facilities to ensure they have the staff they need, but facilities benefit from increased staff in other ways, too. Tony Braswell, CEO of Gale Healthcare Solutions, explains that trying to make do with insufficient staff can lead to issues like higher worker’s comp claims, increased staff burnout, and more potential patient injuries.

“When you have people work a proper number of hours, that changes everything,” says Braswell. “It can lower stress, reduce staff absences, and actually cut costs if you’re not having to constantly offer bonuses and boosted rates to get your own staff to cover extra shifts.”

For many facilities, working with staffing agencies in itself can be a change. “I think a lot of facilities have done things the same way for 30 years,” says Braswell. “But today, they’ve got options they never had before. For example, companies with on demand apps can add an unfilled shift and see it filled in seconds. ”

Braswell suggests that if a facility is considering working with a staffing agency, then the following tips can help ensure that they find an agency that’s a good match.

Know What You’re Looking For

Before approaching a staffing agency, it’s beneficial for a facility to take some time and determine what type and amount of staffing they need. “Maybe [a facility needs] per diem staff for weekend, or maybe it’s a travel nurse to cover a short-term vacancy, or maybe what they really need is for us to help them find a permanent employee,” Braswell says. When a facility has already determined its budget, its staffing needs, and the shifts it needs covered, that makes it easier for a staffing agency to determine how to best help that facility.

It’s also important for a facility to share the skill set that its staff need to have. “If most of your needs are for nurses, and the agency mostly has nursing assistants, that’s not going to help. It’s very important that an agency have staff that meets a facility’s needs,” says Braswell.

Be Prepared to Ask the Right Questions

When interviewing a staffing agency, be prepared with a list of questions. Braswell suggests that facilities ask each agency if they can provide credentials for their staff on demand. Particularly, can that agency provide those credentials during off-hours and on weekends when that information might be urgently needed, or will a facility have to wait until weekday business hours? “If a state official walks in your building, having easy access to staff credentials can help you address concerns quickly,” said Braswell.

Asking about the agency’s staffing numbers can also help to identify which agencies could be the most helpful to a senior care facility. An agency with more people on staff may be better able to help a facility looking to fill larger staffing needs. That help may also come sooner when an agency has more staff to be able to contact.

It’s also important to ask about how clinical performance issues are addressed, says Braswell, as well as what kind of a pay rate a staffing agency offers staff. “You don’t want to see agencies paying outside of the market rate, because not only will it cost you more, but it can make your staffing situation worse. Your own facility staff may want to quit and go to work for the agency, instead,” he explains. He notes that same-day pay can be a big motivator for staff to accept an extra shift.

Braswell recommends asking the additional following questions:

  • How soon can you help us with our staffing needs?
  • What are your on-call hours?
  • If there’s a problem, how can I reach someone?
  • What type of continuity of care can I expect, and will I be able to get the same nurses often?
  • How experienced are your staff, and do you require any skills and knowledge testing prior to hiring?

Solving the Staffing Problem

In light of the nursing shortage, staffing agencies can help senior care facilities to ensure that their shifts are covered and their residents can receive the quality care they need. “We’re losing more nurses than we’re gaining,” says Braswell.  “We can’t quickly train all the nurses this country needs overnight. But we can make it a lot easier for facilities to send out an alert of their staffing needs, and for nurses to get that alert quickly. When you scale that approach, you’ll start to see a lot more shifts getting covered.

“Staffing companies aren’t here to be adversarial. Our job is to get you to a place where you don’t need us. We can help your facility secure adequate staff, so you can better retain your employees, and have the time to hire the additional permanent staff you need. I want to come to work one day to find that no one needs me. For all of us who’ve had loved ones in a healthcare facility, and known the consequences of understaffing, that would be a wonderful thing.”

Topics: Articles , Clinical , Facility management , Featured Articles , Resident Care , Staffing