Nurses Move to Gig-Work in Record Numbers
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a significant strain on the healthcare workforce, and has completely changed the healthcare landscape. The old model doesn’t work for today’s labor market. Chronic understaffing and dangerous nurse-to-patient ratios have been the standard operating procedure before and during the pandemic.
These stressful working conditions have left a scar on the nursing labor market. Scores of nurses have left the industry or abandoned traditional staff roles in favor of higher paying gig-roles with more flexible schedules and a better work-life balance. And while healthcare executives have largely responded with traditional monetary levers such as pay raises and bonuses, nurses have made it clear: the problem is bigger than salary.
While raises and bonuses are effective in some cases, they do not address the root cause of these staffing shortages: declining mental health and poor work-life balance in front line workers. A recent survey by Oliver Wyman found that nursing staff ranked these two factors as their top worries for working in healthcare. This suggests that organizations need to shift their culture and strategy to reflect the new realities of today’s workforce.
And while healthcare executives struggle to shift their culture and strategy, nurses have responded by flocking towards a gig-labor model. This has become increasingly popular among nurses seeking greater control over their schedules and work-life balance. It allows nurses to prioritize the volume, duration, location, and timing of shifts they take, providing greater job flexibility and higher wages.
"Every week I would look over at the nurse next to me, making three times as much while doing the exact same job."
One nurse interviewed by Oliver Wyman noted, “Every week I would look over at the nurse next to me, making three times as much while doing the exact same job,” said an ICU nurse who made the shift to gig contracts during the pandemic. “Now I can take a month off in between contracts, control where I live and work, and get paid more for the privilege.” Given these conditions, healthcare executives need to ask themselves: “What are we doing to keep and attract nurses? How are we supporting our nurses? Why would a nurse choose to stay with a traditional staff role instead of move to a staffing company?”
To address these issues, healthcare organizations need to prioritize mental health, working conditions, and work-life balance as much as they prioritize pay. This requires a cultural shift that puts the needs of frontline workers first, with supervisors and leaders advocating for their workforce and demonstrating a clear investment in their emotional well-being.
Make no mistake - Healthcare organizations are facing a fleeing workforce and need to take steps to keep them right now.
Organizations that demonstrate a deep understanding of what has driven the current staffing crisis, transform care delivery, and build flexibility into formerly rigid jobs will be the ones that retain and attract talented nurses. With the right strategy and culture in place, healthcare organizations can create a more sustainable and resilient workforce that is better equipped to weather the current crises.
Better scheduling is one solid way to actualize the enhancement of work-life balance. These hints will ensure that both employers and employees blend work and life more efficiently.
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