Staffing shortages in rural hospitals are no coincidence. Smaller communities have an even smaller talent pool.
This leaves hospitals like yours unable to meet staffing needs, and turnover becomes especially important to mitigate. You’ve got some great people, but they can only do so much during staffing shortages.
Staffing shortages have numerous effects beyond lacking personnel. They slow down the patient care process and can lead to staff feeling overworked. In turn, this negatively impacts performance; if you can’t see patients, your reputation and revenues suffer.
But rural hospitals benefit from locum tenens in numerous ways.
Locum tenens agencies offer a nationwide talent pool of clinicians, not just those within driving distance of the facility. A Locum tenens clinician moves temporarily (for weeks or months) into your community to work with your team. In times of increasing demand, this can be a lifeline for underserved communities.
You can only ask so much of a team before reaching their breaking point. If your hospital experiences chronic or seasonal staffing shortages, it’s likely that clinicians will start to feel like they’re being spread too thin. This can very easily lead to burnout.
Now, burnout often happens in two different ways, and both are detrimental to your facility.
Some clinicians experiencing burnout will quit, making staffing shortages even more challenging to navigate. But others may continue working through the burnout, which can be even more detrimental. It’s well documented that burnout negatively affects their mental and physical health, making them less productive, and prone to making more mistakes.
If you’ve experienced staffing issues at your hospital, you can relate. All of this fuels your clinicians’ higher turnover rates, creating a vicious cycle.
Have you ever had a clinician return from maternity leave or sick leave early because they didn’t want to leave their co-workers to cover? Or maybe your clinicians don’t feel like they can’t take a vacation as a result of shortages.
Having sufficient staffing allows long-term employees easier access to the time off they need for their own physical and mental health. Rural hospitals can utilize locum tenens to ensure team members no longer feel guilty for taking a day off.
Locum tenens allows you to arrange to have clinicians support your hospital quickly when you’re experiencing increased demand. And they can work full time or part time based on your needs.
It’s easier to fit locums clinicians into existing schedule gaps than to rework everyone’s schedule to cover an extended leave. Shorter contracts allow further flexibility. Locums know their schedules could change depending on your shifting requirements, so they’re ready to work with you.
Understaffing can lead to bottlenecks in the hiring process. It takes time to recruit, interview, and train a new employee. All of that diverts vital resources that you may not be able to spare. Bringing locum tenens clinicians in for a time can provide your facility with enough breathing room to hire and train more permanent employees.
They can act as an effective short-term fix while you come up with a more permanent solution.
And when you’re understaffed, it’s even harder to let people go when you need to. You may feel pressured to keep people on staff when they clearly aren’t a good fit for your facility, because you don’t want to make a difficult situation even worse.
Locum tenens can relieve some of this pressure when it’s time to clean house and replace people who don’t really want to be there.
It’s true that many clinicians are drawn to locum tenens because they enjoy the constant change of scenery and diverse experiences. However, many are looking for a more long-term arrangement if you have one to offer.
This gives both you and the clinician an opportunity to work together on a trial basis with the possibility they may become a permanent employee.
On average, when an employer needs to replace an employee they end up paying two times that position’s annual salary on:
With healthcare, in particular, you have the responsibility of ensuring employees are fully licensed & credentialed. However, a locum tenens agency with a dedicated credentialing department can help prospective employees ensure they have all the necessary paperwork before they begin working.
It’s clear that rural hospitals can benefit from locum tenens in numerous ways; we’ve only scratched the surface here. If you think locums may be a good fit for your rural hospital, don’t hesitate to reach out.