6 Tips for Choosing the Right Healthcare Staffing Agency

We’re at a turning point in healthcare. A few years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic washed over the industry like a tsunami, rearranging priorities, care delivery modes, and supply chains. As the waters of crisis receded, many physicians and nurses began to reconsider their choices. Some decided to pursue different goals in their careers – to earn new certifications, choose a different discipline or specialty, or focus on public health initiatives. Other nurses and physicians decided to opt out of traditional positions in big hospital networks and pursue locum tenens work or positions in underserved areas.  

These paths are attractive for several reasons. Many want the flexibility of locum tenens to have better work-life balance in handling school and family obligations; others like the idea of traveling to different regions of the country; some want to take breaks between assignments. Still others want to experience a variety of patient populations and clinical environments to help them broaden their skillsets. Others like the idea of practicing hands-on trauma medicine, something that may not happen much in conventional staff positions.

In the meantime, many hospitals and healthcare systems are also looking for flexibility – for partners who can do everything from serving up physicians in a much-needed specialty to managing emergency rooms to helping them prepare for a Joint Commission survey.

For both facilities and the healthcare professionals, the answer is the same: finding the right staffing agency.

Choosing the Right Staffing Partner

As we learned recently at the Fall Fly In for NALTO, the healthcare staffing landscape has changed. Every facility has different priorities and needs a partner who can offer multiple service paths – but most agencies simply offer locums and little back end support or healthcare expertise.

If you’re a healthcare professional, you have your pick of medical staffing agencies to choose from. But not every staffing company or assignment offers a fulfilling experience – and it’s important to consider some factors upfront before you tie yourself to a disappointing situation.

While professional efficiency and staffing expertise are the baseline, these six elements are important to consider.

  1. Consider smaller companies vs. big “staffing mill” agencies. The biggest staffing agencies tend to drop people into an assignment and call it a day – something that can leave clinicians feeling stranded and frustrate hospitals who notice their new provider is unprepared and unsupported. Smaller agencies will usually take the time to get to know your professional goals, from account managers who work with your facility to dedicated recruiters who strive to find the right fit for every provider. Small agencies may also pay better, since they don’t have as much overhead to cover.
  2. Check out their track record. Any agency can present itself as a supportive, reputable company. Confirm that by searching out reviews and testimonials that prove they have a good track record. You’ll want proof that nurses, physicians, and other staff enjoy working with them and stick around after the first assignment.
  3. Ask if they provide clinical support. A good medical staffing company will provide clinical oversight through medical directors and chief clinical officers, so clinicians are never on their own or shouldering unfair responsibility. Clinical leadership also means the decision makers have worked in hospitals and understand both the facility’s and provider’s needs. At the end of the day, this is about accountability and communication – ensuring everyone is getting the guidance they need from experienced leadership.
  4. Clarify who handles administration and logistics. A staffing company that provides administrative support, such as doing the heavy lifting in terms of lodging arrangements and credentialing paperwork, frees up providers to focus on providing care and frees up facility administrators to focus on more pressing business.
  5. Confirm there’s room for growth. A locum tenens job can feel great now, but eventually providers may find a facility where they could see themselves working long-term. They’ll want to work with a company that offers long-term assignments, practice management, direct hire, or other pathways, so they can grow their career in a way that works with their changing priorities. By the same token, facilities will want a staffing partner who can accommodate their shifting needs over the long haul.
  6. Look for training and professional development. Even when assignments are temporary, a provider’s career will span decades. Look for a company that will invest in their employees’ success by paying for new certifications and even degree programs. Facilities can count on the arrival of well-trained, culturally competent staff; clinicians can continue growing their skillsets even when they don’t have a permanent facility home.

Taking Control of Healthcare Staffing

Whether you’re looking to change your current career trajectory in 2024 or enlist a new cohort of providers at your facility, now is the time to consider carefully the offerings of each healthcare staffing agency. The right partner can open new doors, align a provider’s sense of purpose with their day-to-day work life, and supply hospitals with the right mix of clinical skillsets. Just be sure to choose a company that serves your best interests today and in the future.

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