Presbyterian uses on-demand staffing app for nursing needs

Sep. 25—New Mexico, much like the rest of the country, has a shortage of health care workers. One report put the state's nursing staff shortages at more than 6,000, a deficit that has weighed on local health systems. Nationwide, nurses have left the profession in droves — about 100,000 in the past two years — according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

To combat those shortages, Presbyterian Healthcare Services has partnered with ShiftMed, an on-demand staffing app that will help the health system fill gaps in coverage at two of its main hospitals in the state.

Health care workers — in this case, nurses and nurse aides — will help fill shifts at Presbyterian's Downtown and Rust hospitals, said Presbyterian Chief Operating Officer Tim Johnsen. The first cohort of workers officially launches in October, and they will work in areas such as the progressive care units, the intensive care units, emergency departments and medical-surgical units.

"The nursing shortage is very well documented — it's a national problem," Johnsen said. "We always want to make sure we have great staffing and, you know, keep our nurse-to-patient ratios the same. We've used agencies and travelers throughout the pandemic and continue to do so. But finding local nurses — that's much more appealing to us."

Larry Adams, the executive vice president of growth for ShiftMed, told the Journal earlier this month that the company — which offers its app on the Google Play and Apple app stores — credentials health care providers that sign on with the company to make sure they are state compliant, "as well as any particulars that are at Presbyterian."

ShiftMed also onboards the workers that sign on through its app — and the company also handles the pay. ShiftMed workers, in fact, are paid immediately following their shifts — and at a premium rate. And, since they are contract workers through ShiftMed, the shifts are flexible.

"The nurses and nurse aides coming in will have a premium rate of pay to obviously attract them to weekend shifts, night shifts — things that are a little bit more difficult to recruit for," Johnsen said. "But in time, we want to get that (pay) as close to our employees' pay as we can."

The company has roughly 350,000 health care workers on its platform, Adams said. ShiftMed and Presbyterian estimate that the partnership, which is exclusive in New Mexico, will cover about 250 shifts in December and, once fully operational, 3,000 shifts per month.

"Presbyterian has made a conscious decision that they want to treat these health care professionals with the utmost respect because they know they're coming in to assist them to fill some of their open positions," Adams said. "They're really taking what I would call a 'systematic approach.'"

Johnsen told the Journal the partnership between the health system and ShiftMed made sense, considering ShiftMed supports and encourages its health care workers to eventually take on full-time or part-time jobs with the hospitals at which they work. For Presbyterian, that was key in the process of choosing to partner with ShiftMed, which was done through a request for proposal process that it opened in the spring.

"They start off becoming a ShiftMed employee, actually, and then (the company) encourages kind of a warm handoff to the employer," Johnsen said. "Again, it's a nice way to onboard with us, orient with us. ...Some companies block that because they want to retain them, and we didn't like that at all. We definitely want to recruit these folks to become Presbyterian employees."