Crossing Training is crucial for staffing coverageBy Christiane Soto, Snelling.com

We all get sick.  No one knows this better than the people who work in healthcare.  They are the first to get their annual flu shots ; they consistently wash their hands;  they maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Most importantly, when they do get sick, they understand the importance of staying home.  Working while you are sick is a bad idea, but in the healthcare field, it can also endanger patients.

Patient safety is the #1 concern, but employee absences can wreak havoc in your practice or facility.  Employees who are left are forced to postpone their own efforts to cover for absent co-workers.  In addition, and more importantly, both the patient experience and your profitability are negatively impacted.

The most recent Unscheduled Absence Survey found that personal illness accounted for 34% of unscheduled absences, and those absences cost companies approximately $660 per employee per year (up 8.2% from 2004) in salary costs alone.

Trying to control absenteeism is extremely difficult, but there are steps you can take to ensure that patient care and customer service is not compromised.    

If absence is short term.…

People get sick.  Life happens.  So be prepared.  Cross-training is the key to ensuring that short-term coverage is available for unexpected absences.  Identify “back-ups” for every position, and make sure that everyone cross-trains regularly.  Many assume that cross-training is not critical in the spring/summer months….after all the cold and flu season is over.  However, in many places, allergy season can decimate staffing levels almost as much as “cold/flu” season.

Once an absence does occur, do not leave your staff to their own devices.  Check in with them throughout the day, and then (after things return to normal) solicit their feedback on how to improve coverage.  Are there job tasks that can be put off until the person returns?  Are there specific job duties that should be split up between two or more people to better spread out the workload?  Is there a better person (due to natural job synergies or close physical proximity) who could handle the main job duties?

If absence is long-term ….

Develop a sound on-call strategy. Having a team of part-time or flexible-hour workers is key.  Build a relationship with a qualified medical staffing firm to ensure that qualified workers are always available.  Covering one day for an absent employee is doable, but sometimes colds turn into pneumonia and viruses can wipe out entire families forcing parents to stay at home longer as family members recover.  When this occurs, it is best to bring in qualified temporary workers who can seamlessly integrate into your office /facility environment and help keep everything running smoothly.

Planning is still crucial.  Do not wait until the 11th hour to make contact with a staffing firm.  Part of the successful integration of a temporary workforce is the “cultural fit” – how they will get along with your core staff, whether their attitudes about patient care will mesh with your office’s philosophy, etc.  A qualified staffing firm needs time to conduct a thorough needs assessment at your facility in order to learn everything about your working environment and culture.  Only then can a proper match be made between qualified workers and your facility. If your initial phone call occurs on the morning your staff member calls in sick, it will be more challenging to provide you with the best temporary employee.

So let’s get started today.  Register on the Snelling website for more information, and one of our talented staffing managers will contact you to get the process started.  Remember, illness waits for no one.

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