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The Gig Economy in Healthcare: How Can it Benefit Your Facility?

Written by , Healthcare Workforce Trends
October 30, 2023

Due to evolving technology and the increasing need for supplemental income, the prevalence of the gig economy has spiked in the past decade.

Generally, gig work is associated with ridesharing or delivery services. However, the gig economy has begun to increasingly establish itself in other industries including healthcare.

What does this mean for the field of medicine?

This article aims to discuss the healthcare gig economy and compare its impact on contingent staffing forces.

 

Table of Contents

 

gig economy in healthcare

 

What Is Gig Economy in Healthcare?

The gig economy refers to the practice of employing short-term workers as a substitute or supplementation for permanent staff. According to ADP, one in four employees is a gig worker in 40% of U.S. companies. 

So it would be no surprise that the gig economy is emerging onto the healthcare scene. 

Due to rising issues concerning the economy and labor shortage, the gig economy has shifted its focus from exclusively involving the service industry to other industries. The healthcare gig economy has created a thriving symbiosis between short-term staff and facilities. It allows healthcare workers the opportunity to flexibly gain more income while addressing the facility’s labor needs.

Healthcare gig work involves short-term, temporary, or flexible assignments that are picked up by healthcare workers on a freelance basis. Healthcare workers are called in, sometimes at the last minute, to address staffing shortages or unbalanced patient ratios. 

The gig economy in healthcare is ideal for nearly every healthcare professional, including:

  • Registered nurses (RNs)
  • Licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs)
  • Certified nursing assistants (CNAs)
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Physician assistants (PAs)

Typically, gig economy healthcare workers connect with hospitals to find shifts with the use of an app. Some healthcare gig apps, like ShiftMed, directly employ the workers and require them to fill out a W-2. Other apps, like CareRev, categorize its app users as freelancers and W-9 employees. 

While gig workers and contingent staff share some qualities, like short-term working relations with facilities, they are not the same. Contingent staff are usually loaned to a healthcare facility by staffing agencies or recruiters. Some gig workers may not be considered employees of the platforms they work on, while contingent workers are temporary employees of the hospital they were onboarded to work at. 

 

How Is the Gig Economy in Healthcare Related to Contingent Staffing?

The healthcare labor shortage, generated by the pandemic, triggered the need for contingent workforces. This created the ideal environment for the gig economy in healthcare to spawn. Gig workers, like contingent staff, help satisfy disparities caused by labor shortages. 

The burnout that contributed to the nursing shortage has not been completely alleviated. According to a 2022 survey of healthcare providers, 25% of respondents were considering switching careers. Roughly 89% of those surveyed cited burnout as the primary reason. 

A 2023 Nurse.org report revealed that 91% of nurses believe the nursing shortage is getting worse. It also found that 79% of nurses reported their units as inadequately staffed and 61% of nurses feel unsupported at work.

Commonly reported causes of healthcare burnout include:

  • Long hours
  • Lack of sleep
  • High-stress environment
  • Lack of support
  • Emotional strain from patients

Contingent staffing and gig staffing allow healthcare facilities to alleviate causes of burnout by using temporary staff to supplement permanent staff. A disproportionate permanent workforce without contingent workers means that nurses may be spread thin between patients and work longer hours. A balanced pool of workers ensures that patient ratios are manageable which reduces stress, balances schedules, and enhances support. 

Contingent staff and gig staff can both improve discrepancies caused by the healthcare labor shortage.  However, contingent staffing provides facilities with more worth. Contingent staff have more merit than gig staff because:

  • Gig workers can have a limited span of knowledge regarding policies, procedures, and equipment location. In emergencies, every second counts. Any slight delay in care jeopardizes patient outcomes. 
  • Gig workers who are not from the area may form less of a connection with other workers and patients. Some gig nurses may only work at a facility one time, which means nurses and patients are working with someone they will never see again. This could be considered the equivalent of depending on strangers for help. Healthcare workers rely on a team to provide the best care, and unfamiliarity creates an air that may be toxic to teamwork.
  • Contingent staff are provided resources like training, onboarding, and guidance through a staffing agency. Whereas, contract workers like gig workers are fully responsible for their work.
  • Patients who require long-term care require care that is understanding of their routines and needs. Short-term workers like gig nurses may miss care details when using an unfamiliar medical record system. This could lead to a lower quality of care.

Healthcare Managed Service Providers (MSPS), like Trusted Managed Services, supply facilities with contingent workforces. By taking control of the assignment and schedules of contingent staff, MSPs can help supplement your facility as needed so that management and healthcare employees can focus on providing the highest quality of patient care and retaining permanent staff. 

 

The Impact of the Gig Economy on Healthcare Facilities

The healthcare gig economy is changing the way facilities approach staffing policies and internal operations. The presence of contingent and gig staff has evolved float pool procedures and external staffing agencies. 

The gig economy in healthcare has the potential to reduce staffing costs. While this may be an attractive feature of gig nursing, it also has the propensity to cost hospitals more in turnover and overhead costs.

Unlike contingent staff, healthcare gig work employs extremely short-term employees who fill day-by-day labor needs. This creates an environment of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, especially between the gig workers and the contingent/permanent staff. An environment that does not adequately support healthcare workers.

If feeling supported alleviates burnout, largely employing gig workers, who might not provide the same amount of support as contingent staff, may stoke feelings of frustration — which could prompt higher turnover rates. High turnover rates increase hiring costs and take up resources that could be used to improve the work environment and patient outcomes.

Facilities that contract contingent workers can help lower labor costs by removing the middleman, filling staff needs, and providing workers who may add more value than gig workers. Overall, MSPs provide more benefits and insight into hiring trends than gig work. 

Trusted Managed Services is an MSP that can allow your facility to access reports and data like total contract labor spend per quarter. Through our Vendor Managed Service, you can access other reports and data including:

  • Time to fill certain orders
  • The average length of assignments
  • Hours/spend per unit
  • Hours/spend per shift
  • Hour/spend per nurse

Trusted Managed Services employs top talent that can help your facility make the most out of the gig economy. Request a demo today. 

 

gig economy healthcare

 

3 Ways Contingent Staffing Can Help Reduce Staff Nurse Burnout Better Than the Healthcare Gig Economy

While contingent and gig staffing benefit facilities, no clinic or hospital wants to lose its permanent staff entirely. Staff nurses also receive benefits gig workers may not have, like insurance, retirement assistance, and pay raises. 

Gig-like positions may help workers supplement their main income, work flexible schedules, and have a change of view which can relieve burnout. This appealing prospect has the potential to lure away staff workers which creates a cycle that relies on gig work to constantly fill in the rotating doors of empty positions.

However, facilities do not have to worry about losing permanent workers if the use of contingent staff creates a retentive environment. 

By using contingent workers over gig workers, hospitals can:

  • Keep nurse-to-patient ratios low
  • Eliminate the occurrence of mandatory overtime
  • Offer time off holidays
  • Establish longer-term support
  • Create familiarity and cohesion between staff 
  • Ensure that nurses have a more evenly distributed work-life balance

The healthcare gig economy may provide some of these benefits, but these aspects only work to address labor shortages. The healthcare gig economy does nothing to neutralize the source of the labor crisis — it might even foster it. 

If the healthcare gig economy is more attractive to workers than permanent or contingent, workers may entirely flock towards contract work. In this scenario, the healthcare industry may need to heavily rely on gig workers to maintain operations. How would healthcare teams successfully operate on a level of little cohesion? 

Creating a system that relies on gig work may aggravate an already stressful situation. Nursing and healthcare work must operate as smoothly as possible to make everyone happy. Happy staff nurses result in lower turnover rates and higher retention rates. Studies have also suggested that happy nurses help retain physicians as well. 

 

#1: Contingent Staff Can Work Weekends and Holidays

Contingent workers, like gig workers, help alleviate staff burnout by allowing permanent staff more work-life balance. A larger pool of workers means that permanent nurses aren’t subjected to overscheduling, mandatory overtime, or missing every holiday. 

Evidence suggests facilities that provide permanent staff with an environment supporting a good work-life balance have lower turnover rates.

Gig workers have contracts where they are specified to work specific shifts including weekends and holidays. While this allows staff nurses to get to spend time with their loved ones, holidays like the Fourth of July need nurses, like contingent workers, who are familiar with the facility/coworkers and prepared to handle high patient influxes. 

 

#2: ContingentHelp Improve the Nurse-to-Patient Ratio

As the 2020 pandemic revealed, unbalanced nurse-to-patient ratios can create a stressful environment that can result in turnover, labor shortages, and deteriorating quality of care. 

Gig workers can improve nurse-to-patient ratios by immediately satisfying gaps in shortages or sudden influxes of patients. However, contingent staffing can do the same, if not better. Nurse-to-patient ratios can be reduced by adding more nurses to the floor, but the value of that reduction is dependent on the efficiency and competency of the nurse. 

Contingent nurses are going to be more knowledgeable of the facility and operations because they have more time to acclimate. Gig nurses may never work with the same patient more than once since they could be flitting from facility to facility every day. Contingent nurses, on the other hand, are more likely to repeatedly treat the same patient which helps familiarize them with the patient’s needs and conditions better.

Workers with a contract are better suited to address labor needs when hospitals are in the process of hiring more staff. 

According to Statista, the average time it takes to recruit and fill permanent registered nurse positions ranges from 75-105 days depending on the job. In the time that it takes to replenish your staffing pool, your permanent nurses may begin to feel the strains of shortage. 

Contract nurses could be employed while you recruit permanent staff to avoid exacerbating turnover. With contingent staffing, facilities would only have to contract contingent workers a single time instead of filling positions multiple times (until the open positions are permanently filled) with gig workers.

 

#3: Relying on Contingent Workers Alleviates Stress When Regular Staff Needs To Call Out

Staff nurses may sometimes need to call out. Unlike other industries, healthcare duties cannot wait until the absent worker returns. The patient responsibilities of the non attending worker must be shifted onto the present staff. This may result in strain as nurses are spread thin to cover patients. 

However, the use of contingent and gig workers can remedy this imbalance by acting as short-term substitutes. But if your teams are sufficiently staffed with enough permanent and contingent workers, you would not need to use gig workers. 

 

healthcare and gig economy

 

How Can MSPs Ensure the Contingent Staff They Provide Will Benefit Healthcare Facilities?

Managed Service Providers supply hospitals with more than just temporary stand-ins. The contingent staff that MSPs lend are skilled workers who supply facilities with immediate solutions to staffing issues. MSPs also relieve facilities of certain duties like recruiting, hiring, and managing contingent workers. 

 

Maintain High Standards

Providing adequate support maintains an environment that is conducive to staff retention and positive patient outcomes. Inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios can have a direct impact on the quality of patient care. 

According to a study conducted by BMJ Open, one Illinois hospital was evaluated to determine if higher nurse workloads impact morbidity rate, length of stay for patients, and cost outcome for facilities. The medical-surgical unit was observed to have patient-to-nurse ratios ranging from 4.2 to 7.6. 

After adjusting for patient and hospital characteristics, the chances of a 30-day mortality rate increased by 16% for every patient that was added to the average nurse’s workload. The odds of a patient’s stay extending one day longer than estimated increased by 5% for every additional patient on the same workload. Using these results, it can be speculated that if the hospital used a ratio of 4:1 in the span of a one-year study, over 1500 deaths may have been avoided and the facility would have saved over $117 million.

By culling and providing qualified staff to address high patient-to-nurse ratios, MSPs can help facilities ensure that patients are getting the best quality of care resulting in the best patient outcomes, short lengths of stay, and cost savings. 

By relying on the healthcare gig economy, hospitals can address worker shortages but lower standards in terms of care. Gig nurses cannot immediately acclimate. Quality patient care relies on preparation, time, and execution. Gig nurses may make mistakes or delay patient care which can lead to poorer patient outcomes.

 

Automate Onboarding and Training Processes

Healthcare MSPs efficiently automate the onboarding and training of contingent staff by streamlining and overseeing these processes. This can remove hiring burdens and allow administrators and front-line workers to focus on patient care. 

Gig nurses do not receive much onboarding or help with training from the healthcare gig platforms. Lack of preparation might require more intensive training and onboarding. There is also a chance that the gig nurses do not receive adequate training. Lack of training leads to mistakes, which prompts high patient mortality rates

By supplementing contingent staff only during busy seasons or unfilled positions, Healthcare MSPs can help reduce labor costs during slow and adequately staffed seasons. 

At Trusted Manage Services, we provide on-site onboarding. Our representative will be available as requested and at any time that is required. We will work closely with administrators to ensure that our contingent staff are versed in first-day instructions and facility-specific compliance standards.

We are an MSP that draws workers from a concentrated pool of talent. We can connect your facility with our recruited nurses to maintain your contingent workforce. 

 

Offer Real-Time Assistance

Healthcare MSPs provide and manage the prospective talent pool of contingent workers. This means providing guidance and consultation to contingent workers and facilities with concerns, requests, or questions.

A dedicated account manager should give onsite support as a part of the healthcare MSP’s services. This support includes advising on recruiting staff as well as assistance in reporting and billing.

Managed Service Providers are responsible for the actions of the hired nurses. Trusted Managed Services is Joint Commission Certified. Our MSP services will support facilities by handling any issues that might arise with our contingent workers.

 

healthcare gig economy

 

Educate Healthcare Facilities About the Gig Economy

Healthcare MSP contingent staffing is considered the traditional hiring model for temporary healthcare staff. But as the healthcare industry shifts, the gig economy may shoulder its way to the forefront. 

The gig economy has only made a recent emergence in the healthcare sector. It may not be long before its implementation lowers care standards and patient outcomes. 

To further understand the costs of the healthcare gig economy, MSPs can assist facilities through insight and support. 

 

Trusted Managed Services Provides Healthcare Workers and So Much More

The healthcare industry is in danger of the commodification of vital healthcare work. We can ease the burden of the nursing shortage, without lowering the standards. 

Trusted Managed Services is dedicated to providing healthcare workers and upholding quality standards.

Our purpose is to simplify the finding and hiring process of highly qualified healthcare professionals. Our custom digital solutions will help strengthen the management of your staff by streamlining the contingent hiring process. You administrators can then focus on other important tasks like improving patient outcomes, creating a work environment that fosters retention, and reducing associated labor costs. 

Trusted Managed Services can help your healthcare facility manage:

  • Increasing labor costs
  • Slow fill rates
  • Compliance risks

Trusted Managed Services empowers healthcare facilities by providing first-class technology and quality industry knowledge as well as:

  • Streamlined onboarding: All necessary onboarding information is handled by our MSP and communicated to new contingent hires.
  • Superior Analytics: Track costs and other values to employ contingent staff only when needed to maintain your labor budget as efficiently as possible.
  • Customizable reports: Receive real-time reports to implement data-driven decision-making.
  • Negotiable conversion fees: If you wish to make a contingent staff member permanent, we provide negotiation fees for the conversion of staff after 26 weeks of assessment.
  • Vendor neutrality: We believe facilities should make the most of Vendor Managed Services. Keep your current VMS while employing our staffing solutions.
  • Auto offers: If requested, our Clinical Director will interview each contractor and provide automatic offers for every opening.
  • Integrations: Our MSP technology can integrate with other third-party systems like electronic timekeeping, ERP, HRIS, and more.
  • Recruitment process outsourcing: We provide an on-site account manager to help fulfill daily recruiting tasks for your facility.

Incorporate the advantages of gig economy healthcare by implementing our contingent workforce solutions. Employ one of the most trusted MSPs and request a demo today.

 

gig economy healthcare

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