The U.S. healthcare sector has been among the most heavily affected by skills gaps and talent shortages over the past several years. This has led to a direct increase in the amount of strain placed on physicians and other medical practitioners, which can compromise the quality and efficiency of any healthcare establishment. Technology has improved patient health management in the past decade, but overworked staff make it difficult to optimize outcomes and experiences.
For this reason and many more, hospitals and other facilities are increasingly leveraging locum tenens providers in their human resources strategies, ensuring that all full-time practitioners are given the time and support they need to do their jobs properly. Locum tenens can significantly improve operations in healthcare without exceeding hospital budgets, and one would be hard-pressed to identify a medical establishment in the country that has not needed temporary support at one time or another.
Let’s take a look at some of the evidence that proves locum tenens are not only extremely popular, but also necessary to keep medical performance solid, safe, and sustainable.
Locums Alleviate Widespread Strain
Locumstory.com recently published the results of a landmark study that sought to identify some of the pain points facing physicians today, especially with respect to their workloads and experiences as professionals. Roughly two-thirds of respondents stated they are more strained currently than they were at the beginning of their careers, and this applies to all specialties within hospitals, private practices, and organizations. Unfortunately, this has contributed to poor work-life balance — 39 percent of physicians do not believe their employers allow them to live their lives comfortably while still completing their work.
This is a major problem for employee engagement and efficiency, and it also creates issues for human resources. When work-life balance is askew, staff members are more likely to look for employment elsewhere, and they’re not as prepared and driven to complete their daily tasks. This can have significant and severe negative effects on both patient care and experience.
Another finding relates to the increased amount of responsibility physicians have with respect to information management. About one-fifth of respondents stated they now spend at least an hour each day on paperwork, including the process of loading information into electronic health record (EHR) systems. This is a necessary task, but one that physicians might simply not have time for.
Things have actually gotten fairly dire: Locumstory.com reports that 55 percent of physicians are looking to make a career change and leave medicine altogether, and 68 percent of those say that loading information into EHR systems is the main reason they feel such resentment toward their profession.
Diagnostic Imaging suggests that locum tenens clinicians might have never been more important than they are today. When locums are used properly, the risk of overworking and overwhelming physicians decreases. In that way, locums may be able to save the medical community from the even more severe staffing shortage that would come from such a mass exodus.
Temporary Help Offers Industrywide Relief
HealthcareDIVE published an article by Nina Flanagan regarding the current state of healthcare workforce management, as well as why temporary staffing needs to be on every medical organization leader’s radar for the foreseeable future. Flanagan states that the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has had a significant effect on the medical community, and is among the leading causes of strain among physicians given its demands for hospitals and practices.
According to Flanagan, nearly 60 percent of the 20,000 physicians surveyed by Deloitte a few years back stated the medical industry is at risk of major problems and shortfalls, and these sentiments have only gotten worse. However, regulation and other modern healthcare challenges have combined to influence leaders and practitioners throughout the medical community, and a growing number of facilities are bringing locums into the mix.
Citing data from the Physicians Foundation, Flanagan states that the number of doctors choosing to go the locum tenens route grew from 6.4 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014. This amount is going to have to increase substantially as the physician shortage becomes more severe. As Flanagan points out, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the talent shortage will scale to somewhere between 12,500 and 31,000 primary-care physicians, and 63,700 nonprimary-care physicians, by 2025.
Interestingly, she says that locum tenens providers are no longer viewed as the emergency cord. Instead, HR teams and staffing managers are incorporating these expert, experienced clinicians into their core strategies. This, Flanagan noted, has led to significant growth for the locum tenens industry, which one report found to be valued at $3.1 billion in 2015.
A Clear Choice
Physician’s Weekly argues that locum tenens can be invaluable players in a medical facility’s workforce given the ways in which they reduce the risk of burnout, help doctors strike a better work-life balance, and efficiently solve staffing challenges. What’s more, locum tenens can also be a great way to check out new talent — decision-makers can evaluate temporary workers to see if they would be a good fit should a full-time position become available.
What it comes down to is this: Healthcare leaders need to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to support their clinicians, and bringing on locum tenens remains one of their top options.