When some people hear “locum tenens” they immediately think vacation coverage. The truth is, organizations use locum tenens physicians and nurse practitioners (NP) for more than just short, place-holding assignments. Many organizations use locum tenens providers on an ongoing basis to ensure their staffing levels are optimized. Could your hospitals benefit from using locum tenens physicians and NPs?
Chances are, if you are seeing one of the signs below, the answer is yes.
ED is crowded
Emergency departments (ED) are becoming more crowded each year, and with the Affordable Care Act adding millions of newly insured patients to the system, the problem is going to get worse. Patients who are admitted to the hospital from a crowded ED typically have a longer inpatient stay and are 5% more likely to die in the hospital. The best way to fight ED crowding is with proper staffing levels. A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine examined ED length of stay and ambulance turnaround time in nine Boston-area EDs, where EDs have been banned from diverting patients since 2009.
Researchers found that the average ED length of stay and ambulance turnaround time in those departments was lower than records from 2008 and 2009. What’s their secret? Proper staffing. Many EDs use emergency medicine locum tenens physicians and NPs to ensure they have the staff needed to handle patient volume. Locum tenens provide the flexibility that allows organizations to ramp up staffing during volume surges and scale back during slower times.
Staff shows signs of burnout
Physician and NP burnout is very real, and it can be very costly for your organization. A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that “physicians who have burnout are more likely to report making recent medical errors, score lower on instruments measuring empathy, and plan to retire early and have higher job dissatisfaction, which has been associated with reduced patient satisfaction with medical care and patient adherence to treatment plans.” With hospital reimbursement increasingly being tied to patient satisfaction and quality outcomes, it is more important than ever to ensure your staff is alert and rested. Organizations that use locum tenens physicians and NPs to supplement their existing staff can keep workloads manageable and overtime hours low.
Wait times are too long
If your organization doesn’t have the staff available to offer appointments within a reasonable time frame, you are likely missing out on business and revenue In an article published in Becker’s Hospital Review, Marshall Maglothin, principal at Blue Oak Consulting, says a healthy service line is able to provide patents with three appointment options within three business days of the appointment request. If the third next available appointment is greater than nine days from the point of scheduling, the service line may be losing business, Mr. Maglothin says. Patients who want or need an earlier appointment will likely take their business elsewhere. To prevent this from happening, healthcare organization must ensure they have the staff available to meet patient demand. Finding the right staffing levels can be challenging for some facilities because demand for services are sometime subject to peaks and valleys.
During a surge in volume, a department may become overbooked, which will require staff to pick up extra shifts or work overtime. However, overbooking may not be frequent enough to merit a new employee. Fortunately, organizations can use locum tenens physicians or nurse practitioners to effectively manage their patient volume without committing to a staffing a full time position.