Articles of Interest
By Ryan Anholt, Vice President of Travel Recruiting
Provided by NATHO Member, The Delta Companies
It has been said that the best defense is a good offense—why wouldn’t this theory extend to patient care? For facilities utilizing healthcare traveler services, the best defense against the risk of liability is to employ providers with up-to-date licensure, background records, and training. When choosing to partner with a staffing agency in the search for such providers, accreditation from The Joint Commission is the quarterback of the healthcare-staffing field, providing a comprehensive evaluation of a staffing firm’s ability to present qualified and competent staffing services.
In order to maintain The Joint Commission’s Healthcare Staffing Services Certification, staffing firms undergo rigorous and systematic onsite surveys, which ensure the firm is achieving all requirements set in place to qualify for certification. Certified firms are responsible for verifying licensure; conducting education and training programs related to infection control, cultural diversity, and The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goals; assessing competency; performing background checks; and ensuring all personnel records are up to date.
As a certified firm, Delta Healthcare Providers requires the following documents from all travelers on contract assignment:
These are the minimum requirements set to maintain The Joint Commission certification. Delta Healthcare Providers offers copies of these documents to clients prior to a traveler’s assignment. If a client requires additional documentation for an assignment, Delta Healthcare Providers has a prepared list of vendors ready to fill these needs.
In addition to maintaining certification, tracking the above materials also holds a staffing organization and the talent they represent accountable to unwavering standards. This parallel creates a mutually beneficial relationship between a hiring facility and healthcare traveler. Facilities engaging in staffing services can be assured that the healthcare providers represented by an accredited agency are screened and fully oriented prior an assignment.
Additionally, since all documentation and personnel records are in order, incoming healthcare providers can begin an assignment fully focused on their work, instead of the fine print.
A database of certified healthcare-staffing agencies associated with The Joint Commission can be found at qualitycheck.org. By partnering with an agency prepared to hold themselves accountable to nationally recognized standards, hiring facilities relinquish the threat of liability in travel opportunities to a team prepared to evaluate and administer all necessary requirements specific to each assignment. This structure allows facilities and providers the peace of mind necessary to continue being all-stars in their field, and to focus on exceptional patient care.
Provided by NATHO Member, The Delta Companies
Travelers are fully qualified providers working with a flexible schedule, throughout various locations. A typical assignment for a traveler averages 13 weeks, depending on the need of the facility served. According to data from this quarter’s The Standard, the traveler’s lifestyle appeals most to providers with fewer than five years experience, or over 10 years experience. Typically, these age brackets include new graduates eager to absorb knowledge, and seasoned providers willing to spread their expertise.
But who is the traveler, really? What motivates these individuals to explore a traveling position or take on a new facility? For many organization representatives, these questions remain unanswered or leave room for misconceptions and false assumptions about the lifestyle of the traveler. In order to better understand the role, and perhaps determine if your facility has the need for such a provider, it is important to discuss and expunge common myths associated with healthcare travelers.
Myth 1: Providers travel because they cannot work full-time
This statement is simply untrue. Rather, providers choose to travel to accommodate their lifestyle. Motivation for this choice could be self-serving— some travelers want to see the country and explore new territory while maintaining a steady income. After wrapping up an assignment in the northeast, a provider may try heading south to explore the culture and customs of the southwest. Others are inspired by the fundamental appeal of helping others. Knowing that a particular facility is in need and can benefit from their expertise draws these travelers from region to region. One provider explained that working as a traveler allows him to structure his assignment schedules with time off during summer, which he dedicates to mission trips with his church. Working in a full-time position would not likely provide this flexibility.
Myth 2: Travelers cannot provide consistent care
Good travelers are eager to learn and have a zeal for new experiences. As a provider moves across different facilities, he or she can learn new processes and techniques from experts in each area. While open to guidance, travelers are also willing to share their knowledge. New techniques can be passed on to providers in the next facility at which the traveler takes an assignment.
Myth 3: A traveler will not connect with my facility or community
In addition to sharing knowledge, good travelers typically exude a passion for their job, which can be infectious to other providers. Although an assignment is temporary, travelers are still eager to connect with other employees and form lasting professional relationships. Often, travelers on assignment are also very engaged with community activities. In a small town in Virginia, one traveler took a 6-month position working with a facility dedicated to assisting with children with disabilities. During her assignment, the traveler helped develop and promote a city basketball team for her patients. Within her short assignment, this provider took great strides in drawing a community together.
Myth 4: Travelers cost too much
Travelers are employed by staffing agencies, and therefore do require a fee for placement costs. However, the level of availability a traveler presents offsets this expense. Typically, facilities need travelers to fill an immediate position— for instance, filling in for another provider who is on maternity leave. If this role is left open, patient flow will suffer causing a decline in the facility’s revenue. Placing a traveler in a needed position can actually save a facility time and money by maintaining a regular patient load. Additionally, travelers are ready to being work from their first day of arrival. By resourcing a staffing agency, all credentialing requirements, licensing, housing arrangements, travel expenses, and administrative prerequisites are the responsibility of the recruitment firm, not the hiring organization.
Myth 5: My facility has to be located near a buzzing attraction to appeal to good travelers
Travelers thrive on new experiences and are attracted to assignments that fit to their needs. A recruiting agent holds the responsibility of matching these needs with those of the hiring organization. For travelers who value providing quality care to patients in need, proximity to a thriving city or exotic destination is not necessarily a priority. Instead, these providers are motivated by the chance to build relationships, plan their schedule, and transfer knowledge through new experiences.
It is important for facility representatives to identify with the traveler in order to fully understand their options during the recruitment process. Recruiters that understand the needs of both temporary and permanent providers have the best advantage toward connecting a quality provider to an organization in need.
It is common knowledge within the healthcare industry that poor nurse to patient ratios have been linked with higher mortality and readmission rates — not to mention higher instances of nurse burnout. But the chorus of voices suggesting that safe staffing be addressed through legislation continues to grow.
With a looming nursing shortage, many states and the District of Colombia are currently considering (or will consider this year) safe staffing legislation that would compel facilities to staff specific numbers of nurses, particularly at peak admission times.
While safe staffing ratios are a no-brainer, opinions are divided as to whether or not safe staffing legislation is a good move.
In some states, nurses groups have rallied for safe staffing legislation, arguing it would be positive for patients and staff alike — protecting patient care and guarding against nurse burnout. Meanwhile, many hospitals have expressed worry about their ability to finance increased staffing levels or that in some cases it would further stretch already overextended staff pools, as well as limiting each facility’s autonomy and decision-making ability.
“Hospitals should take notice because when budgets are tight, cutting back on nurses is often the first step but one that can have disastrous consequences for patients,” Linda H. Aiken, Professor of Nursing and Sociology, and Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania told Science Daily in February 2014.
But is safe staffing legislation necessary? Or can facilities properly execute safe staffing levels independent of such legislation?
It’s hard to say, but one thing is certain: Whether through legislation or attention to responsibility amongst facilities, safe staffing levels are definitely a hot topic right now.
Sarah Wengert is a writer for Medical Solutions, the nation’s third-largest travel nurse staffing company, and Travel Nursing Blogs. Learn more at MedicalSolutions.com.
NATHO has recently received various communications from nurses, agencies, and facilities regarding MTV’s soon-to-premiere program “Scrubbing In.” Due to the volume of feedback and commentary we’ve received, we feel it necessary to comment on the upcoming reality show, which depicts the lives of travel nurses both on and off the job.
While it is difficult to fully adjudicate and comment on a show that is yet to premiere, our hope for “Scrubbing In” is that it successfully portrays travel nurses in a positive light, also reflecting well on this great industry that we believe in so much. To have travel nursing featured on such a high-profile media platform presents an excellent opportunity for an important national conversation about the industry — from the nursing shortage and safe patient ratios, to travel nurses’ unyielding dedication to quality patient care. As that conversation develops, we will maintain respect for every nurse’s individuality and his or her freedom to make their own lifestyle choices as long as it does not interfere with their ability to deliver excellent and ethical care.
The sheer volume of travel nurses and others related to the industry that are concerned about this show and have reached out to us is an impressive testimony to the ethical strength of the industry. NATHO will certainly continue to observe this situation and take any necessary action should it become needed at any point.
Finally, NATHO would like to reaffirm our commitment to the promotion of principled business practice in the travel healthcare industry. Our approach and the ethical guidelines we provide serve NATHO members, travel healthcare candidates, and clients, and we will continue to take that very seriously.
That’s a problem because the U.S. has 15,230 fewer primary-care physicians than it needs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Yet teaching hospitals aren’t rushing to fill the void. The federal government foots most of the bill for residency programs—and Congress has capped enrollment at about 85,000 students for the last 15 years. “We’re actually already later than we should be in addressing the issue,” says Tom Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia who’s also an orthopedic surgeon.
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