In the last 12 months, 96 percent of healthcare facilities have reported that they employed temporary allied healthcare specialists to complement their current staff, based on survey results from 204 facilities.
The Survey of Temporary Allied Healthcare Professional Staffing Trends was conducted by AMN Healthcare, a comprehensive healthcare staffing organization that assists hospitals, medical groups, government entities, and other healthcare facilities with their workforce requirements.
The report that was included with the 2021 survey included information from 159 hospitals, out of 204 facilities. Respondents were healthcare executives and managers who took the survey by email between August to September 2021.
According to the survey the respiratory therapists were responsible for 26% of healthcare professionals on temporary staffing. The high demand is likely fueled by COVID-19, and is expected to remain high as respiratory therapists play an important part in treating COVID-19 patients.
“Patients recovering from COVID-19 might experience long-term respiratory problems and this could lead to a continued high demand for respiratory therapists in the long-term future,” according to the survey report.
Other temporary health professionals from the allied field are involved in COVID-19 treatment. Overall, more than half (53%) of respondents reported that temporary allied healthcare professionals have been “moderately to extremely” involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. the rest of them were “slightly involved” or “not at all involved.” Radiologic technologists and laboratory technologists made up 25 percent and 21%, respectively, of the temporary health professionals employed by allied healthcare in the past year, as per the survey.
Filling Staff Gaps and Battling Burnout
Seventy-three percent of healthcare facilities stated they employ temporary allied healthcare professionals to fill gaps in staffing. They also seek permanent staff. In addition, 71 percent of respondents said they use temporary workers to fill in gaps caused by staff turnover. This could be a reflection of the higher turnover rates in many facilities because of the ongoing pandemic, and 75% of hospitals and other healthcare facilities said they are currently seeking temporary allied healthcare professionals, according to the results.
Other than respiratory therapists there are a variety of specialties that are in high demand such as radiologic technologists and laboratory technologists. According to the report, “Laboratory technologists were particularly active during the COVID-19 epidemic,” although demand for their services existed prior to the outbreak and to outlast it.
“The large number of allied healthcare professionals on temporary contracts suggests a growing shortage of these workers,” Robin Johnson, divisional president of AMN Healthcare, said in an AMN Healthcare press release in which he announced the findings. The same labor shortages that plagued nursing and medicine are now affecting allied health professions.
Respondents have been more concerned about the effects of burnout on staff. 73% of respondents said that temporary allied healthcare professionals can aid in preventing burnout. While physician burnout was an issue and the reason for the utilization of temporary allied health professionals prior to the outbreak, the high rate is indicative of the effects of COVID-19 on healthcare professionals well-being and mental health as per the survey report. 66% of respondents stated that using temporary allied health professionals allows patients to be treated in continuity.
Temporary workers are valued and accepted
Nearly all (97 percent) of the survey respondents rated the competence of their temporary allied health professionals as ranging from “average to exceptional,”” two thirds (65 percent) were rated as “good to excellent,” and only 3% rated them as “poor or horrible.” Respondents said that 94% of temporary health professionals were accepted by their managers, 83% were accepted by their co-workers, and 82% were accepted by patients. 75 percent of those who participated in the survey assessed temporary allied health specialists as “as productive or more productive” than permanent staff.
According to the survey cost remains the most significant obstacle for temporary allied health workers. According to the survey, 56% of respondents mentioned cost as the primary obstacle. Other obstacles included the learning curve and the training required for equipment and procedures (30 percent) and licensing issues (27 percent).
According to an AMN Healthcare press release, data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 589,000 healthcare workers quit their jobs in September. This is an unprecedented 35% voluntary loss rate. The report concluded that that the demand for temporary allied health professionals in the US is likely to persist due to the need for more healthcare professionals of all kinds to support the physical/mental effects of COVID-19, the predicted overall healthcare professional shortages and the aging of the population.
The report of the survey is available online at the AMN Healthcare website.
AMN Healthcare. Survey of Temporary Allied Healthcare Pro Staffing Trends. Online December 13 2021. Survey of Temporary Allied Healthcare Professional Staffing Trends
Heidi Splete is a freelance medical journalist with over 20 years of experience.
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