3 Ways Private Practices Address Staffing Shortages

Staffing shortages are never good in any area of the healthcare sector. But at private practices, shortages can be absolutely debilitating. Private practice owners do not necessarily have the resources to meet staffing shortages as quickly and efficiently as group practices and hospital-based healthcare systems.

Medical Economics contributor James F. Sweeney wrote an excellent post on this very topic. Published in early May 2019, the post discusses several ways private practices address shortages. While this post will not go into Sweeney’s comments in detail, it will expand on a few of the more salient points he made.

Suffice it to say that private practices have no choice but to address staffing shortages with workable solutions. Business must continue, even when certain staff members are forced to take time away from the office.

1. Bringing in Temporary Workers

Turning to temp agencies may be the first thing you think of when the topic of staffing shortages comes up. It is certainly an option for private practices. Practice owners can look to staffing agencies to fill multiple needs. For example, a staffing agency specializing in office personnel can provide a temporary receptionist or office administrator.

Healthcare staffing agencies can supply locum tenens doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. The clinical staff they provide consists of fully trained, licensed, and credentialed clinicians more than capable of stepping in on a temporary basis.

The one downside to temporary staffing is cost. Some private practice owners prefer to use temporary workers only when absolutely necessary. If they can use another solution that costs less, they will.

Requiring Cross Training

Cross training is an option for picking up the slack without spending extra money on temporary staff. In a cross-training scenario, each member of the team has a primary function but is also cross trained in another function. You might have someone trained for the billing department who can also handle scheduling if need be.

One of the private practices discussed in Sweeney’s article makes sure there are three people capable of filling every role. Each role has a primary worker complemented by two backups. That way, there is always someone available when a staff member has to take time off.

Cross training works well for office staff and some clinicians. It’s not an option for senior clinical staff, though. They can already do another’s jobs as it is, so all have to pitch in to pick up the slack when a colleague is out.

3. Creating Float Pools

The third option discussed by Sweeney is something known as a ‘float pool’. A float pool is essentially a group of local workers willing to pick up a few shifts here and there in order to make some extra money. The way these pools were described makes it sound like something similar to freelance locum tenens.

Workers in a float pool aren’t necessarily looking for long-term commitments. They may work a shift here and there most of the time, but then agree to a longer commitment when a regular staff member is out for an extended amount of time. Once that extended commitment has concluded, the worker goes back to taking a few shifts every now and again.

It’s interesting to learn how private practices address staffing shortages. Practice owners can come up with some very creative solutions that meet their needs without breaking the bank. They have to because they have an obligation to their patients. Private practice owners have to keep the doors open whether that means bringing in temporary workers, cross training their staff, or developing a float pool.