Spring is finally here! The snow is melting and the sun has returned from its bleak hibernation. It is the season of spring breaks, school holidays, and vacations. A season that, while warm and sunny, brings with it staffing headaches for hospitals and healthcare organizations that must accommodate for an influx of seasonal patients and staff taking vacation time. Spring Illnesses Spring causes a number of seasonal afflictions that can lead to upswings in patient volume at healthcare facilities. With more than 40 million Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, this spring is predicted to become possibly “the worst allergy season ever,” states AFC/Doctors Express, a company operating urgent care centers across the United States. In fact, physicians are already seeing an increase in patients seeking allergy relief. According to AFC, an “unusually warm fall, followed by an unusually wet winter, has ratcheted up pollen production.” Other concerns stemming from a particularly harsh winter, which broke records across the North East, include people escaping the confines of their home to beaches where there are limited lifeguards. In the past few weeks, the Bay County Emergency Management Service in Panama City, Florida has received more than 160 calls in a single day, double the normal amount. Typical calls during spring break range from minor injuries to severe traffic accidents, increasing the patient census at area hospitals. Physician Burnout Appropriate staff levels will guarantee adequate patient to provider ratios during these seasonal swings, which is important for the emotional and mental state of healthcare providers. Hospitals that are short-staffed often require existing providers to pick up additional shifts. However, 81 percent of physicians already feel they are at the limits of their practice. Maintaining a work-life balance reduces stress levels, increases focus and concentration levels, positively affects job satisfaction, stabilizes physician turnover, and results in greater patient satisfaction overall. Without preparing for increased patient volume, physician burnout becomes a growing concern during the seasonal census increases. How to staff for Seasonal Surges Understanding the seasonal trends in a given region will allow healthcare administrators to plan ahead for staffing challenges, prevent physician burnout, and meet patients’ needs head-on. With the so called “ sweet spot” of patient to hospitalist ratio at 15:1, adding temporary staff during the seasonal shifts allows physicians to more effectively provide care to patients without feeling stressed, overextended, and burnt-out. Having a plan in place ensures healthcare organizations can continue to provide quality care to their communities. A seasonal staffing plan could include extending hours, juggling the schedules of full time physicians who take vacation, and bringing in per diem or locum tenens physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners to supplement full time providers. While there is no way to accurately predict how much a community’s census will fluctuate season to season, healthcare organizations can look to past seasons to help formulate a staffing plan. Locum tenens is an excellent option for healthcare organizations with seasonal staffing needs as it these organizations can increase their staffing levels without requiring existing staff to pick up additional shifts. It is even possible for healthcare organizations to utilize vacationing healthcare providers to their advantage, as these providers could be willing to pick up extra shifts during their stay. Many top healthcare organizations have established relationships with locum tenens companies so they can quickly bring on additional physicians, PAs, and nurse practitioners when unforeseen staffing needs arise. Such preparation reduces patient wait times, alleviates overextending current staff, and reduces the risk of medical errors. For more information on how locum tenens can assist your organization this winter, please visit Barton Associates’ Hospital, Practices, and Companies section.