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Temporary Nurses Are a Stopgap Solution

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, July 8, 2013

With dozens of staffing contracts and hundreds of vacant nursing positions, Scott & White Healthcare in Texas faced a business expansion that outpaced its staffing resources. Here's how the HR department recovered.

Nursing is the largest sector of the healthcare workforce. As hospital leaders look ahead to masses of newly insured patients about to walk through their doors, they risk overburdening nurses and the negative impacts that can have on patient safety.

Whats' more, when exhausted nurses walk out the door, those vacancies can't last long without impacting the rest of the staff and affecting the quality of patient care. Under the pressure to fill positions, may hire less-than-ideal candidates.

When Keith Minnis arrived in 2008 to Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, TX, as the director of recruitment and retention, the health system had 6,500–7,000 employees. Today, the large multi-specialty practice employs 14,500 at its 12 hospitals. From 2008 to 2011, the system more than doubled its nurse workforce from approximately 2,000 nurses to over 4,000, and in 2011 the system had anywhere from 200 to 400 open nursing positions.

"We were actively recruiting for [nurses], but we couldn't meet the demands of the growth of the organization. We grew so big so fast with opening clinics, service lines, and hospitals, we literally outgrew our workforce marketplace here to support the 30,000 square miles we serve," says Minnis, now the vice president of human resources.

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