Hospitals shift crisis staffing strategies as RSV cases spike

November 17, 2022 Qualivis Staff

Sick kids poured into the academic medical center filling the PICU and overwhelming staff with unprecedented numbers of RSV cases. The hospital scrambled to fill 90 open positions, but patients arrived faster than new nurses.

The hospital was already offering top rates through its existing agency partner. As the only facility in the region equipped to handle specialty pediatric cases, increasing bill rates by another 50 percent – as one opportunistic external agency advised them to do – seemed like the only option. 

Triple-demic worsens staffing crisis

Experts are calling the onslaught of RSV, seasonal flu and COVID-19 a triple-demic.

“It’s never been like this before,” said Emilee Lamorena, a respiratory program director who also leads pediatric issues at the American Association for Respiratory Care. “It’s all hands on deck,” she said in an interview with Vox.

Treating RSV patients, frequently young children, requires more workers and more specialized care, exacerbating existing clinical staffing shortages.

According to Qualivis data, overall travel nursing demand in children’s hospitals increased by 78 percent between October 6 and November 6, 2022. Demand for pediatric nurses increased by 45 percent over the same period, with more than 3,139 travel PEDS/NICU/PICU RN jobs open as of the first week of November.

Increasing rates won’t increase the talent pool

There’s only so much talent available.

“We don’t really have a lot of spare people hanging around,” said Christopher Friese, a professor of nursing who studies practice environments at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Increasing pay rates may lure travelers to a lucky few hospitals, but it won’t change supply. And the consequences are far reaching – not only does it create significant financial burden for the facility, but it also hamstrings all the other facilities in the region.

Moreover, it’s likely to unnecessarily drive rates upward for months to come.

Rethinking crisis staffing rates

The academic medical center resisted the pressure to hike rates. It worked with its primary agency to reduce barriers to getting travelers onsite, leveraging 4x12s to maximize pay packages and rewriting job posts to align with the new strategy.

In less than a week, they had 23 candidates accept offers.

That other agency offered up only one candidate. He could start in January. For the higher rate, of course.

Developing a strategic response to crisis staffing

As your workforce partner, Qualivis is monitoring the census and emergency visit influx related to pediatric respiratory infections. We work with clients every day to help them implement crisis staffing strategies just like this one. We developed the following recommendations to help them secure quality talent at the most competitive rates.

Review recent pediatric experience requirements

During the first year of the pandemic and previous COVID-19 surges, pediatric RN job volume declined while job volume for adult specialties increased dramatically. This caused many pediatric RNs to cross train and care for adult patients. While these high-quality RNs may not have recent pediatrics experience, many have sufficient pediatrics experience and should be strongly considered.

Other considerations to increase candidate submission flow include requiring only one year versus two years of experience, accepting first time travelers and removing specific EMR charting experience.

Secure talent quicker with Lotus Offers

High-quality clinicians with pediatric experience will receive multiple offers. But legacy processes can cause significant delays, causing you to miss out on good talent. Lotus Offers enables our clinical services team to conduct profile reviews within 24 hours of submission to secure high-quality candidates before competing facilities. Our clinical services team has conducted over 200,000 clinical profile reviews YTD in 2022 with a low clinical cancellation rate of 1.1 percent.

Get clinicians to facilities faster with truncated compliance

Many clients are operating in crisis mode for pediatric specialties. Truncated compliance and crisis requirements for contingent labor decreases onboarding from weeks to days.

Use data to align rates

Backed by the largest nurse staffing agency in the country, Qualivis benefits from data on what pay packages clinicians will transact on. This helps our clients avoid the urge to exceed market rates to fill jobs.

The Qualivis program management team has several internal levers to increase engagement and candidate flow to our clients’ open positions. We bring data on how different pay packages are working in the marketplace instead of simply “guessing” what rates should be or worse artificially inflating them thinking more dollars means more candidates.

Post jobs now to plan ahead

Review the Gantt chart report in Lotus Connect or collaborate with your program manager on your long-range schedule so that you can stay ahead of any gaps in coverage and proactively assign and extend resources as needed.

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