Demand for clinicians, support staff grows as Covid-19 spreads

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March 16, 2020 07:02 PM
Demand for clinicians, support staff grows as COVID-19 spreads
Alex Kacik and Harris Meyer

Healthcare staffing companies are fielding more requests as U.S. COVID-19 cases surge.

The highly contagious virus has hospitals scrambling for additional nurses, emergency medicine doctors, hospitalists, infectious disease specialists and other clinicians as well as medical supplies. Beyond frontline staff, hospitals are seeking environmental service workers, patient access representatives, respiratory therapists and X-ray technicians, among others.

“We are now posting more than 1,000 crisis jobs for health systems across the nation and orders continue to come in rapidly,” said April Hansen, executive vice president of workforce solutions and clinical services at the staffing company Aya Healthcare.

Demand for emergency doctors, hospitalists and infectious disease specialists has been building for the last few weeks, said Leslie Snavely, chief strategy officer at CHG Healthcare, a national healthcare staffing firm. Recent upticks in registered nurse and respiratory therapist demand indicate that hospitals need more support, she said.

“As this situation continues to expand, we see changes by the hour,” said Snavely, adding that there have been spikes in New York and Washington.

SCP Health, a national healthcare staffing firm, said its hospital clientele have had few “outages,” where there aren’t enough doctors to work a scheduled shift.

“But I absolutely think that we will see that, it’s just a matter of when and where,” said Lisa Fry, chief growth officer at SCP.

The staffing firm is creating regional practice hubs so it can meet area demand as it shifts, she said. SCP also set up a hot line to help hospitals deal with the influx of patients and is ramping up its telemedicine capacity at hospital emergency departments, Fry added.

Some states look to waive physician licensure requirements, which would allow doctors and other caregivers to travel to different states to meet demand. Physician and nursing compact states already offer that luxury.

Now that President Donald Trump has declared the pandemic a national emergency, states can apply for a Section 1135 waiver. That would, among other things, temporarily waive requirements that physicians and other professionals be licensed in the state in which they are providing services and permit out-of-state providers to serve other states’ Medicaid enrollees.

Meanwhile, prominent health systems and hospitals across the country like Kaiser Permanente and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s are canceling or postponing elective procedures as they brace for a wave of complex COVID-19 patients. There are around 3,500 cases in the U.S., rising several hundred a day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Demand for ventilators has also spiked, according to OpenMarkets, which helps providers source equipment.

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