Locums Digest 11: Hospital Staffing Outlook for January 2021, Locums Agency News & More

Status of Hospital Physician Staffing, Locums Agency News & More

Locums Digest is Locumpedia’s roundup of hot topics, top stories, and social media posts of interest to the locum tenens and medical communities. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive Locums Digest before it’s published here.

COVID-19 & Hospital Staffing: An Update

On Nov. 29, Shereef Elnahal, MD, president and CEO of University Hospital Newark, told CBS News, “One in five US hospitals now has a severe staffing shortage as they surge with COVID-19 patients.”

Although we don’t know for sure, the former New Jersey Health Commissioner likely was referring to statistics gathered for a Nov. 17 article in The Atlantic by Alexis C. Madrigal : “The reports have come in from all across the country: Hospitals are filling up, especially in the Midwest, and they are running out of the staff they need to take care of patients.”

Madrigal quoted data provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicating roughly 22% of all American hospitals were experiencing staffing shortages as of mid-November.

Business trends observed by locum-tenens-industry executives reinforce his thesis: “We’ve definitely seen an increase across the board for critical care and respiratory care,” Floyd Lee Locums CEO Natasha Lee said. “Generally, it seems the workload and work pace at most facilities are causing full-time staff fatigue and we see hospitals — not just rural, but large systems — where they need to provide some critical relief to their full-time staff. Some facilities are trying to be proactive and others already short on staff are feeling the strain even more.”

Lee added that Floyd Lee Locums has been “as busy in December as in any of our best months which is unusual.”

The Atlantic ’s Madrigal shared his theory regarding the trend as follows, “COVID-19 puts pressure on hospitals in two ways. One, staff members get sick or are exposed to the coronavirus and have to stay home, reducing the labor supply. Two, more patients arrive at the hospital, increasing demand.

“As a rule of thumb, the COVID Tracking Project has found that an increase in cases shows up as an increase in hospitalizations about 12 days later,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal said the seven-day average of daily hospital admissions topped 5,000 at the peak of the summer surge. “Yesterday (Nov. 16), the same measure topped 10,000. We should expect many more hospitalizations, and even worse staffing shortages, to come.

Hospitals Feel the Hurt

Media reports over the past six weeks or so appear to confirm Madrigal’s prediction.

As of Nov. 16 , Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, began admitting anyone age 26 and under to help other hospitals in the area relieve COVID-19 capacity issues.

As of a Nov. 17 briefing by Amy Williams, MD, executive dean of practice at the Mayo Clinic, 905 newly diagnosed staff had contracted COVID-19 in the prior two weeks, Becker’s Hospital Review reported. Those workers made up about a third of the 2,981 Mayo staff in the Midwest who had been diagnosed with the virus since March.

Becker ’s said the Mayo system was experiencing a stable shortage of 1,500 staff across the Midwest, including 1,000 in Rochester. However, through a December 8 news release Williams said ‘there are good signs that suggest the COVID-19 surge may be leveling off in Mayo Clinic’s Midwest regions.’ She noted that positivity rates mostly were “sliding down,” along with the number of patients needing to be hospitalized.

On Nov. 19 , NBC News reported Elkhart (Ind.) General Hospital had to reopen older areas of the hospital when the facility’s 144 beds were over-capacity with 206 patients. Medical Affairs Vice President Michelle Bache, MD, said she asked staff to take more shifts to care for the overflow.

A couple of days later ( Nov. 21 ) ABC News reported, “ Goshen Health Hospital in Indiana has had to issue a public call for help from people with medical experience. In a Facebook post, the CEO wrote, ‘We invite you to consider if you are someone who could make a difference.’

ABC News writer Stephanie Ebbs noted that in five states, more than a third of hospitals reported critical staffing shortages: “In North Dakota, more than half the state’s 47 hospitals faced a staffing shortage last week, Ebbs wrote. “And in the US Virgin Islands, one of the islands’ two hospitals was overwhelmed, with the second expected to face a staffing shortage within the next week.”

According to a November 30 article on NPR .org, “Even the region’s largest hospitals are filling up. This week, Vanderbilt University Medical Center made space in its children’s hospital for non-COVID-19 patients. Its adult hospital has more than 700 beds.”

As of Dec. 16 , The Tennessean reported, “The Tennessee Department of Health announced 11,410 new cases of COVID-19…the most ever reported.” In Middle Tennessee 11% of hospital beds and 7% of ICU beds were available. As of Dec. 22 , of the almost-535,000 cases of the coronavirus reported in the state to date, 2,888 (0.005% or 5/1,000) were hospitalized. The newspaper said 6,269 people (0.01% or 1/100) had died as a result of COVID-19 across the state.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9 , HealthDay News reported: “New federal data show more than a third of Americans now live in areas where hospitals are critically short of intensive care beds. Hospitals serving more than 100 million Americans (total) had fewer than 15% of intensive care beds still available as of last week…”

As of Dec. 10 , more than 107,000 people (107,258) across the United States were hospitalized for complications related to COVID-19. This represents 0.007% of the more than 15.5 million “positive + probable” cases across the country, according to data compiled by The Atlantic ’s COVID Tracking Project . This means that seven of every 1,000 people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized as a result.

On Dec.16 , the Dayton Business Journal reported, “Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1, Ohio’s daily count of inpatient COVID-19 hospitalizations grew seven-fold, from 700 to more than 5,200, according to Ohio Hospital Association census data. Statewide, one in four hospital patients is COVID-19 positive, and few hospitals have enough workers to accommodate the surge.”

The latest manifestation of coronavirus (“COVID-19”) has also hastened the deaths of more than  360,000 US residents (2% of positive + probable cases) so far this year.

As The Atlantic ’s Madrigal wrote, “That’s a lot of pressure to exert on a region’s healthcare systems, especially the staff. Beds can be built, floors can be repurposed, but you can’t simply train a new legion of nurses and doctors.”

According to The Atlantic’s “COVID Tracking Project,” as of January 8, 2021, almost 132,000 people across the US were hospitalized with COVID-19 (0.006% of total cases, or 6 out of 1,000) — close to 24,000 of them (18%) in ICU and almost 8,000 (6%) on ventilators. Up 8.6% over the previous seven days, the national “case count” stood at 21,654,108 — about 8% of the more than 264 million tests administered.

All News Is Locums

All Star Healthcare Solutions Debuts Revamped Training

(Edited from PRNewswire, Nov. 30, 2020)

All Star Healthcare Solutions ℠, recently ranked among Staffing Industry Analysts’ (SIA) largest US healthcare and locum tenens staffing firms, is pleased to introduce its redesigned training program. While most All Star associates work remotely, the company’s new, six-week, on-site Training Camp offers immersive, experiential learning while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols.

AB Staffing Solutions: Notice Of Data Privacy Event

(Edited from PR Newswire, Dec. 4, 2020)

AB Staffing Solutions, LLC (“AB Staffing”) provides notice of a recent incident that may affect the information security of current and former professionals placed by AB Staffing. The confidentiality, privacy, and security of information in AB Staffing’s care is one of our highest priorities and we take this incident very seriously. To date, AB Staffing has not received any reports of actual or attempted misuse of affected information.

What Happened? AB Staffing discovered suspicious activity related to certain AB Staffing employee email accounts. Upon learning of this activity, AB Staffing took steps to secure the accounts and began an investigation, which included working with third-party forensic investigators, to determine the nature and scope of the activity. Through this investigation, AB Staffing determined that an unknown actor gained unauthorized access to certain AB Staffing employee email accounts on separate occasions in May and June 2020. During this limited time frame, the unauthorized actor may have had access to certain emails and attachments within the accounts.

What Information Was Involved? While the investigation determined certain email accounts were accessed, it was unable to determine whether any specific email or attachment was accessed by the unauthorized actor.

Therefore, in an abundance of caution, on or about October 13, 2020, AB Staffing, with the assistance of third-party forensic investigators, completed an extensive, programmatic and manual review of the contents of the affected email accounts to determine the types of protected information contained in the email accounts and to which individuals the information relates.

Upon completion of this review, AB Staffing immediately launched a review of its files to ascertain address information for the impacted individuals. This review confirmed that information related to certain current and former professionals placed by AB Staffing were present in one of the email accounts at the time of this incident. This information includes name, date of birth, address, Social Security, driver’s license/government identification number, passport number, financial account information, medical history/treatment information, insurance information, electronic signature, tax identification number, and/or username and password.

What We Are Doing? Upon discovering this incident, AB Staffing reset the relevant account passwords and worked to determine what personal data was at risk. AB Staffing is notifying potentially affected individuals and, providing them with access to complementary credit monitoring and identity protection services. As part of its ongoing commitment to securing personal information in its care, AB Staffing is strengthening safeguards and providing additional training to employees on data privacy and security. (AB Staffing will also notify state regulators, as required.)

For more information, call AB Staffing’s dedicated assistance line at 1-855-914-4684, Monday through Friday, 9am to 9pm ET. OR write to AB Staffing, 3451 S. Mercy Rd, Gilbert, Arizona 85297, or go to www.abstaffing.com.

What You Can Do. AB Staffing sincerely regrets any inconvenience this incident may have caused affected individuals related to this matter. AB staffing encourages you to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud, to review your account statements, and to monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity.

Under U.S. law you are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call, toll-free: 877-322-8228. You may also contact the three major credit bureaus directly to request a free copy of your credit report.

The Healthcare Staffing Story

Healthcare Staffing Firms Help Meet Clinician Demand

(Edited from Staffing Industry Review , November 30, 2020)

Demand for nurses and other healthcare professionals is rising as the COVID-19 pandemic surges across the US. Billing rates are up, with some providers seeing increases of 30-to-40 percent and some hospitals paying nurses as much as $8,000 to $10,000 per week, Kaiser Health News reports. At the same time, many clinicians face stress and exhaustion as the virus continues to hit the US hard.

“The past few weeks in particular, it’s just been going through the roof,” said Host Healthcare President and CEO Adam Francis. “We’ve never seen this many job orders to fill.” Francis reported highest demand for intensive care unit nurses, medical/surgical nurses, progressive care nurses and telemetry nurses.

Nationwide Needs

When the pandemic began last spring, demand was concentrated in urban areas like New York City; now demand is surging nationwide. Hospitals did staff up across the country in March, Francis noted, but facilities canceled assignments in April when an anticipated patient-census increase beyond the hardest-hit areas didn’t materialize.

“Early on… we tended to have very concentrated hot spots; right now it seems to be pretty widespread,” said Matt Pierce, co-founder of Trusted Health, an online platform for nurse staffing based in San Francisco.

Demand followed COVID-19 as the virus hospitalized growing numbers of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) COVID Data Tracker, there were 48.7 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the trailing seven days and 265,166 deaths as of Nov. 29. However, several states were particularly hard hit, and several states reinstated stricter measures to control the spread.

Staff Exhaustion

Demand — and fatigue — among nurses and other healthcare workers was increasing as December began.

Medical Solutions CEO Craig Meier, whose healthcare staffing firm is based in Omaha, Neb., said some clients were using travel staff as a “release valve” as their own clinicians faced mandatory overtime amid the crisis. “Their clinicians are exhausted, they’ve been in this world since February and they don’t see an end in sight,” Meier said.

So far Medical Solutions has found the needed nurses for its clients. “We do whatever it takes to fill these positions with quality clinicians, including increased compensation, incentives, additional employee assistance services, and guaranteed quarantine pay,” Meier said. “Our stance is ‘let’s be a partner, let’s do it right and take care of these heroes.’ ”

Fierce Competition

Competition to attract staff has remained severe, forcing hourly rates up, as clinicians put themselves at risk and feel they deserve higher wages in return.

Noting there’s always been a shortage, Host Healthcare’s Francis said some nurses are choosing not to travel now out of concern for their own health. And some are unable to travel because they have children in remote learning.

The fatigue nurses feel as the pandemic drags on concerns healthcare staffing executives.

“There was a rallying cry when it first hit and nurses rushed to the front lines,” Trusted Health’s Pierce said. Now burnout and fatigue are on the rise: a Trusted Health study found nurses reporting a 30% decrease in their mental well-being since the pandemic’s beginning. Also, while pay remains a factor, safety is equally important. Clinicians shared other concerns, such as availability of adequate personal protective equipment, adequate hospital planning for patient surges, and whether workload and acuity expectations are reasonable.

Trusted also offers two weeks of guaranteed quarantine pay to its nurses. In April the company partnered with The Ohio State University College of Nursing to provide an emotional support telephone line, as well as an individualized four- or eight-week program of coping and wellness strategies to nurses working on the front lines against COVID-19.

Other trends include more contract extensions beyond the industry-standard 13 weeks and fewer limits on nurses practicing across state lines — particularly among states that aren’t part of the multi-state Nurse Licensure Compact.

For now, healthcare staffing companies remain focused on filling clients’ needs. However, 2021 remains murky: When will the market get back to normal? Also, what does “normal” mean post-pandemic? Will demand return to pre-COVID levels?

As with many other concerns raised this year, it appears we’ll just have to wait and see.

CHG Healthcare Names New Executives

(Edited from PRNnewsire.com, Dec. 9, 2020)

CHG Healthcare, recently announced two additions to its “C-Suite.” CHG named Leslie Snavely its new chief sales officer and Scott Boecker its new chief digital officer.

Snavely replaces Mark Law, who retired after 31 years with the company. “CHG Healthcare has experienced remarkable growth over the years — both in our business and our culture — and Mark played a key role in all of it,” CHG Healthcare CEO Scott Beck said. “We will all miss him, but are excited for him to start the next chapter of his life.”

Having joined CHG in 2010, Snavely has led the company’s marketing, enterprise client solutions, product management, and engineering teams. Most recently, she served as chief digital officer, shepherding CHG through acquiring two technology companies, Modio Health and LocumsMart.

In her new role, she will oversee the company’s sales and marketing efforts. Collectively, CHG’s five staffing brands — CompHealth, Weatherby Healthcare, Global Medical Staffing, RNnetwork, and Foundation Medical Staffing — place more than 13,000 medical providers each year, touching the lives of more than 25 million patients.

CHG’s new Chief Digital Officer Scott Boecker brings more than 20 years of product experience with venture-capital-backed startups and billion-dollar companies including Ticketmaster and Nike. In his new role, Boecker will lead CHG’s digital innovations to make it easier for healthcare providers to work locum tenens assignments and for facilities to meet staffing needs.

AMN Names New Physician/Leadership Solutions CEO

(Edited from BusinessWire, Dec. 3, 2020)

AMN Healthcare has named James Taylor its new group president and CEO for Physician & Leadership Solutions. Taylor will lead AMN’s locum tenens, interim leadership, and physician/executive search businesses, according to AMN President and CEO Susan Salka.

Taylor joins AMN Healthcare from Delaware North, where he was president of Sportservice since April 2019. He spent 18 years with Sodexo, one of the world’s largest service providers, in roles including CEO, Healthcare, in London; division president, Healthcare; and president, Senior Living. Taylor earned a BA in Business from Arkansas Tech University, an MBA from Southern Methodist University, and an MA in Management of Aging Services from the University of Maryland.

AMN CEO Among Modern Healthcare’s “100 Most Influential”

(Edited from BusinessWire, Dec. 7, 2020)

Modern Healthcare named AMN Healthcare President and CEO Susan Salka one of its “Most Influential People” in determining healthcare’s course during the global COVID-19 pandemic for 2020.

The annual program honors individuals deemed “most influential” in terms of leadership and impact. The complete ranking, feature article, and profiles of winners are available at ModernHealthcare.com/100MostInfluential.

News You Can Use

(Edited from AAPPR.org/events)

AAPPR Roundtable: Working with Locum Tenens Physicians

When: Thursday, January 14, 2021, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, EDT

Where:  Online and conference call – link will be emailed in registration confirmation.

Register: Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (aappr.org)

Time: 1:00 pm EST/ 12:00 pm CT / 11:00 am MT / 10:00 am PT

Cost: Members/Free, Non-members/$99

Working with locum tenens physicians need not be stressful. Whether you’ve managed locums for years or are new to the process, join fellow AAPPR members to discuss the ‘ins and outs’ of locum tenens: In today’s virtual world, AAPPR is committed to finding innovative ways for recruitment ‘pros’ to engage, discuss and share ideas. Join us to learn and grow!

Participation is limited to 25 members per session, so early registration is encouraged.

Please note that these roundtable discussions will not be eligible for CE credit and will not be recorded for later viewing.