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Improving Patient Outcomes: Contingent Staff May Be the Answer

Written by , Healthcare Workforce Trends
August 29, 2023

When your company is literally in the business of saving lives, patient outcomes are the bottom line.

But as healthcare facilities face challenges like a mounting nursing staff shortage, it can be difficult to provide the services necessary to give patients the treatment they deserve.

Fortunately, medical research has proven the connection between patient outcomes and nurse staffing, which means the answer to improving patient outcomes may also be the answer to the shortfall in personnel.

Nursing directors and human resources managers may hold the key to improving the quality of care by implementing hiring strategies that can relieve some of the burdens on nursing staff.

Keep reading as we uncover how hiring a contingent workforce to complement your permanent staff can help improve the patient experience and increase favorable patient outcomes.


Table of Contents


does nurse staffing affect patient outcomes


How Does Nurse Staffing Affect Patient Outcomes? 

Studies suggest that not only does inadequate nurse staffing negatively affect organizational efficiency, but patient mortality rates as well.

The nurses you do have on staff may be likely to suffer from burnout or fatigue leading to trouble focusing on tasks which can result in negative patient outcomes due to:

  • Increased medical errors
  • Decreased patient engagement
  • Impaired judgment; and
  • Missed patient care

Healthcare facilities that fail to adequately staff personnel also compromise patient safety.

In addition to an increased rate of in-hospital mortality, patients in understaffed facilities are also susceptible to an increased risk of infection, postoperative complications, and falls.

Improve your facility’s patient outcomes by decreasing nurse-to-patient ratios with Trusted Managed Services.

Trusted Managed Services is a leading healthcare managed service provider (MSP) delivering more high-quality contingent healthcare workers to facilities across the nation.

With access to broad visibility of the available talent and current pay rates in each market, we can negotiate rates from our long list of staffing suppliers and vendors while maintaining a top-of-the-pool workforce –– all at no cost to you.

Instead, participating vendors are charged a rebate percentage of the bill rates, typically a 3-5% fee. 


can nurse staffing affect patient outcomes


What Can Happen When There’s a Shortage of Nurses?

The COVID-19 pandemic had a staggering impact on healthcare systems, especially the nursing staff working never-ending shifts and caring for a growing number of patients.

Now the country is experiencing a severe nursing shortage across all healthcare facilities as Baby Boomers age and the need for more healthcare professionals grows.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections 2021-2031 report expects the Registered Nurse (RN) labor force to grow by 6% over the next ten years. 

That’s an increase of only 195,400 nurses while the Bureau estimates 203,200 openings for RNs each year through 2031. 

As healthcare facilities encounter a shortage of nurses several challenges and implications can arise, most notably those affecting patient outcomes, including:

  • Higher patient mortality
  • Increased incidence of errors
  • Higher risk of nurse burnout; and
  • Overcrowded emergency rooms


Higher Patient Mortality

Studies continue to find that high nurse-to-patient ratios lead to higher patient mortality.

One study reported higher patient mortality in patients of nurses who worked more than 8 hours per shift. 

Another study examined the nurse-to-patient ratio, the patient mortality rate, and deaths following complications amid the worsening hospital nurse shortage, to understand how nurse staffing levels affect patient outcomes.

Researchers found that each additional surgical patient per nurse was associated with a 7% increase in the likelihood of dying within 30 days of admission and a 7% increase in the odds of failure to rescue. 


Increased Incidence of Errors

Human error can be expected, but when nurses are subject to 12-hour shifts and work overload, you can expect the incidence of errors to increase.

A recent study examined the causes and consequences of errors with the hope to spark change in some nursing practices. 

The study’s questionnaire showed nurses self-reported the most common causes of errors were:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insufficient information
  • Stressful workplace atmosphere
  • Work overload; and
  • Absence of support from senior staff


Higher Risk of Burnout 

Over 65% of nurses report experiencing high levels of burnout as they work to pick up the slack at understaffed healthcare facilities.

Symptoms of burnout can include:

Studies show that higher levels of nurse burnout were directly linked with unfavorable patient outcomes, patient dissatisfaction, and increased patient and family complaints.

Exhaustion in healthcare professionals can cause patient depersonalization. And compassion fatigue can create a cynical and distant approach to patients’ needs, greatly compromising the quality of care.


Overcrowded Emergency Rooms

Working as an emergency nurse comes with all the expectations of working in a high-pressure environment.

Emergency nurses must constantly stay alert and knowledgeable to maintain their ability to respond quickly, recognize trauma or illness, and provide immediate care often before the physician reaches the patient.

Despite the chaos in an emergency room, there is structure, but it can only be maintained with a manageable nurse-to-patient ratio. 

Emergency nurses are pivotal in providing timely care for critical patients. 

Nonetheless, a single person can’t withstand more than a standard workload beyond a certain point.

One study on 845 critically ill patients even reported with 95% probability that patients were more likely to be discharged from the hospital when the nursing staff’s workload was below a specific threshold.

Patients exposed to a high workload during their intensive care unit stay had lower odds of survival.


how does nurse staffing affect patient outcomes


4 Ways Hiring Contingent Nurses Benefits Patient Outcomes

The correlation between nurse staffing and patient outcomes means that healthcare facilities struggling to keep up with staffing demands put the health and safety of their patients at risk.

As nurses work long and multiple shifts to provide around-the-clock care at understaffed facilities, they become more susceptible to burnout, impairing their abilities and even driving some to quit nursing.

According to a survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 31.5% of nurses cited burnout due to inadequate staffing as the reason they left the profession. 

So what’s the solution to this nurse shortage catch-22?

Partner with a healthcare MSP to hire supplemental contingent nurses.

Here are four ways a healthcare MSP can help your facility combat staffing issues and benefit patient outcomes.  


#1: Enlarges the Talent Pool

A healthcare MSP can help streamline your organization’s recruitment, onboarding, and retention processes through a web-based vendor management service (VMS) software application.

A VMS allows you to procure contingent workers through staffing agencies and manage your facility’s entire contingent workforce hiring strategy, in one easy-to-use solution.

Jobs are published to the vendors in the VMS program and vendor applicants become available for you to choose from.

The more vendors an MSP works with, the more nurses you will have access to in your talent pool when hiring.

The best part is –– An MSP can automate every step of the process and act as a single point of contact for your entire list of vendors.

On the other hand, if you’re working with an MSP that only has a few vendors, you’re limited to a small number of contingent workers. 

At Trusted Managed Services, we have over 50 vendors in our VMS program, giving you access to a large talent pool of skilled contingent workers.

So you can rest assured you’ll find the perfect candidate with minimal effort.


#2: Easier to Find Specialized Providers

Specialized medical workers are a key component at every healthcare facility.

A healthcare MSP with a large database of vendors in their VMS will mean greater reach when searching for specialized providers to fill your staffing needs.

Trusted Managed Services can provide contingent nursing and allied professionals for hospitals, long-term care facilities, and rehab centers.

With a national nurse labor shortage, access to specialized contingent workers can become even more difficult if you are working with staffing agencies directly. 

Time and effort will limit the number of vendors you can reach and the right specialty worker or allied health professional might pass you by.


can nurse staffing affect patient outcomes


#3: Helps Retain Current Staff

One piece of the nursing shortage puzzle that is often overlooked –– retention.

With an easily managed system and reliable source of quality temporary workers, a healthcare MSP can enable you to give your permanent staff the time and support they need to excel in their jobs, helping you reduce vacancy rates and increase retention.

Many contingent workers have holiday shifts incorporated into their contracts.

Knowing ahead of time exactly how much holiday coverage you will have from your temporary staff can allow you to reward your permanent staff with more favorable shifts or time off during the holidays.  


#4: Accelerates the Hiring Process

Patient-to-nurse ratios can quickly take a hit in the face of a disaster or medical crisis.

You may even require more staff during peak times or for other reasons like maternity leave.

Entrusting a healthcare MSP allows you to fill your staffing demands effortlessly and expeditiously.

Experienced contingent workers can provide you with an immediate solution and are often available at short notice. 

An MSP can offer a more streamlined and cost-effective hiring and onboarding process by automating and managing every step in sourcing, acquiring, managing, and paying your temporary staff.

The burden is lifted from your human resources and administrative staff permitting them to focus their time and energy on other important tasks while leaving the management of the contingency program to the MSP.

With an MSP, contract workers can be hired with less red tape than permanent employees.

Trusted Managed Services MSP even helps to alleviate labor market challenges by converting temporary to permanent staff after 26 weeks of assignment.


nurse staffing affect patient outcomes


Trusted Managed Services: Improving Patient Outcomes Through Quicker Access to High-Quality Nurses

The impact of the critical nurse staffing shortage reaches every bed in the hospital.

Don’t let your healthcare facility succumb to poor patient outcomes.

Let Trusted Managed Services source a team of high-quality contract nurses to supplement your permanent staff and keep your company running reliably.

With more than 50 vendors at our fingertips, we can bring you the best staffing talent and save you time and money in the process.

Trusted Managed Services simplifies your company’s entire contingent workforce program and centralizes it into one easy-to-use solution –– at no additional cost.

Contrary to the misconception that MSPs only benefit larger facilities, Trusted Managed Services offers a fully scalable and customizable workplace solution whether you’re a small healthcare facility or an expansive hospital network.

Request an MSP demo to see how Trusted Managed Services can facilitate and accelerate the hiring process for your healthcare facility.

Trusted Managed Services, helping your company save money and lives.


can nurse staffing affect patient outcomes

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