For the past few years, already-existing labor shortages in the healthcare space have been exacerbated by the pandemic, thus shifting the way facilities operate. Pre-pandemic, there were already ongoing discussions about nursing shortages. In its current state, industry projections state that shortages are slated to last until 2030, with a total supply of nurses decreasing by ~100,000 from 2020 to 2021, the largest drop in four decades.
Many healthcare organizations have found per diem nursing to be a suitable fix for the current nurse shortage. Here we'll go over what per diem nursing is, why it's advantageous, and how you can manage your per diem nurses more effectively.
What Is Per Diem Nursing?
Per diem, a Latin phrase that means "by the day", indicates that a per diem nurse works on an as-needed basis. Per diem nurses may find themselves at multiple facilities in any given week or day and are usually contracted by a staffing agency, though it can also be directly through a specific healthcare facility. They are most frequently used to cover shifts that require extra support, oftentimes at the last minute. Per diem nurses have become a mainstay for healthcare organizations during times of crisis, such as during labor shortages or during significant influxes of patient volumes.
For the most part, per diem nurses are paid hourly as opposed to a salary, since their days tend to be so dynamic. They hop from hospital to hospital to provide support wherever necessary, which makes it harder to have a steady, salaried income. On the flipside, because of the last-minute nature of their work, they do tend to be more expensive than a typical salaried nurse.
Why Per Diem Nurses Are Valuable
While per diem nursing has existed for quite some time, their true value was discovered during the desperate times of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, many healthcare facilities were pushed to the brink and oftentimes beyond it. With salaried staff working around the clock and still in need of further support, they found that per diem nursing was able to fill in staffing gaps for:
- High rates of staff burnout
- Heavy influxes of new patients
- Staff calling out sick after contracting the virus
The need for surge staffing meant that per diem nurses were able to quell fears and maintain the integrity of patient care during volatile and unpredictable times. The pandemic forced organizations to sink or swim, which resulted in embracing changes in an ever-evolving workforce. The new "gig economy" has seeped into nearly every industry; and per diem nursing is just one of the examples of the gig economy at work in the healthcare space.
Additionally, despite their higher-than-average hourly wages and onboarding costs, per diem nurses are oftentimes a cheaper option in the long run. This is particularly true when full-time staff work overtime, as was so common during the peak of the pandemic. By utilizing per diem nurses, organizations were able to break up shifts so that full-time staff could leave on-time, thereby avoiding overtime pay and minimizing risk of burnout or negative patient outcomes.
How to Manage Per Diem Nurses
As you may expect, managing staff that works on an as-needed basis is an entire undertaking on its own. How do you know when to call in a per diem nurse? What can the facility even afford? Which departments need extra support the most?
Having a vendor management system (VMS) helps to streamline staff management, including per diem workers in order to save time, money, and give peace of mind. Healthcare Workforce Logistics (HWL) provides an all-in-one VMS platform that manages all contingent workers across the entire healthcare organization in order to maximize cost savings. Whether it’s Local or Travel, Contract or Per Diem, Clinical or Non-Clinical, HWL VMS delivers heightened visibility, efficiency, and compliance while improving overall quality of staff.
HWL Is Here to Help Contain Costs and Maintain Patient Outcomes
HWL's platform is custom-tailored to address the modern needs of hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country, whether it's managing per diem nurses and other contingent staff, locum tenens, internal float pools, and more. We can even help your organization create its own internal agency to streamline the contingent labor procurement process. Here are just a few features of our comprehensive platform:
- Scheduling services
- Credentialing management
- 24/7/365 staffing support
- Profile screenings and pre-interview coordination
- Streamlined contract management services
- Vendor and user onboarding/training
- Consultation, guidance, and industry best practices
Find out how we can help your organization contain staffing costs today!