How COVID-19 is Impacting Healthcare Staffing

Understanding how COVID-19 impacts healthcare staffing and has changed the United States and world landscape forever is essential right now. Every person has been affected in some way, and no industry has been left untouched. In particular, the healthcare industry has been profoundly transformed. While many hospitals are overrun with patients, some ambulatory surgical centers and primary care physician practices struggle to keep their doors open.

How has COVID-19 impacted the healthcare staffing market? The situation regarding staffing is ever-changing. While the pandemic represents many steep challenges, we see the silver lining of the situation in that it provides us the opportunity to showcase the importance of healthcare staffing during times like these. Let’s explore some of the ways healthcare staff is being impacted.

Shifting personnel

Hospitals have experienced massive cancellations of non-critical procedures and surgeries, and anesthesiologists have been reallocated to help ICUs overwhelmed with COVID patients. In particular, front-line doctors and nurses are in high demand. Many surgeries and other procedures have been canceled to free up staff to fill critical needs, but there is still a severe gap.

Some specialties like vascular surgeries continue nearly uninterrupted, given that the majority of these cases are true emergencies. Meanwhile, specialties like gastroenterology and radiology are severely impacted. People are opting to postpone non-urgent diagnostic tests, so many radiologists have been furloughed simply because there are no images to read, and likewise for gastroenterologists because people are simply not having procedures.

Demand for personnel

Respiratory therapists are also in peak demand. While having enough ventilators is a concern, the respiratory therapists required to run them are also in very short supply. Respiratory therapists have specialized training to not only manage up to six simultaneous ventilator patients but to also intubate patient airways. Before COVID, the United States only had about 150,000 practicing respiratory therapists. These therapists are particularly lacking in rural areas, and like nursing, the retirement rate is high, contributing to the shortage that hospitals are now experiencing during the COVID outbreak.

CT and MRI machines are running at peak capacity within hospitals and there is a high demand for CT and MRI techs. There are not many trained technicians to begin with, and as they also are exposed to the virus, backup staff is hard to come by. The situation is creating a bottleneck in some hospitals where equipment is going down with no one to repair it.

Allied health specialties like PT and OT have also experienced a sudden surge in demand, as patients need these therapies upon hospital release after a long battle with COVID.

How locum tenens can help

Locum tenens doctors, nurses and other staff are accustomed to being on the front lines, a fact that has never been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic. Requests for travel nurses are at an all-time high. Nurses in areas that are not experiencing large COVID outbreaks are being recruited and offered premium salaries to relocate to hot spots like New York and New Orleans. 

Healthcare staffing companies are working hard to efficiently provide this labor in support of the healthcare system across the U.S. with focus in particular geographic areas.

Exacerbating a pre-existing shortage

It is also important to remember that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was already a shortage of healthcare providers. For example, the nationwide demand for nurses showed no signs of slowing down before COVID-19, and definitely will not now. Growth in the nursing job sector is increasing more than twice as fast as other job sectors. Skilled nurses are more in demand year after year, especially since most hospitals now require their nurses to have at least a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing. Nurse practitioners are also highly sought after to fill critical shortages of primary care providers, particularly in rural areas. This need has become even more dire during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Filling staffing needs

But it’s not all gloom and doom. We are hearing encouraging stories from around the country about how recently retired practitioners are stepping back into the workforce to lend their medical expertise and how states are modifying licensures to expand access to more medical professionals. Our industry is getting creative and innovative in solving the healthcare challenges that are upon us.  

TinkBird Healthcare Staffing is available 24/7 during this pandemic to help healthcare facilities recruit and hire highly-skilled medical providers. Learn more about our COVID response here.  

We understand the critical need for all types of interprofessional healthcare team members to meet the complex requirements of diverse patient populations. A fully staffed facility is the best way to provide quality care to patients and ease stress on providers. You can trust us in this critical time to support you in serving your community, no matter where you are in the U.S. 

Contact TinkBird today for help filling the gaps in your healthcare workforce. 


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