Allied health professionals fill gaps in health care facilities

Over the past 12 months, 96% of healthcare facilities reported using temporary allied health professionals to supplement their existing staff, according to a survey of 204 facilities.

the Temporary Allied Health Professional Staffing Trends Survey was conducted by AMN Healthcare, a comprehensive healthcare workforce recruitment organization that helps hospitals, medical groups, government entities and other healthcare facilities meet their workforce needs.

The 2021 survey and accompanying report included data from 159 hospitals among the 204 facilities. The participants were healthcare executives and managers who completed the survey by email in August and September 2021.

Overall, respiratory therapists were the most in-demand temporary allied health professionals, accounting for 26% of the temporary health professional workforce, according to the survey. The high demand is likely due to COVID-19 and is expected to remain high as respiratory therapists play a key role in treating patients with COVID-19.

“Patients recovering from COVID-19 may experience long-term respiratory problems, which could contribute to continued high demand for respiratory therapists for the foreseeable future,” according to the survey report.

Other temporary allied health professionals are involved in COVID-19 care. Overall, more than half (53%) of respondents said temporary paramedics have been “moderately to extremely” involved in treating patients with COVID-19; the remaining 47% answered “little involved” or “not involved at all”. Laboratory technologists and radiology technologists made up 25% and 21%, respectively, of temporary allied health professionals employed in the past year, according to the survey.

Filling staff gaps and tackling burnout

Seventy-three percent of healthcare facilities said they employed temporary allied health professionals to fill staffing gaps while looking for permanent staff, and 71% of respondents said they used these temporary workers to fill gaps caused by the staff turnover. This rate likely reflects increased turnover rates at many facilities due to the ongoing pandemic, and 75% of hospitals and other healthcare facilities said they were currently looking for temporary allied health professionals, according to the findings.

In addition to respiratory therapists, other specialties in demand include laboratory technologists, radiological technologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. “Lab technologists have been particularly active throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, although the demand for their services predated the pandemic and is likely to last longer,” according to the report.

“The widespread use of temporary allied health professionals signals an emerging shortage of these workers,” Robin Johnson, division president at AMN Healthcare, said in a statement. Press release announcing the results. “The same pattern of labor shortages that prevails in nursing and medicine is now affecting allied health professions.”

Staff burnout has become a growing concern, and 73% of respondents cited burnout prevention as a benefit of using temporary allied health professionals. Although physician burnout was an issue and a reason for using temporary allied health professionals before the pandemic, the high rate reflects the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of health professionals. health, according to the investigation report. In addition, 66% of respondents said that the use of temporary allied health professionals allows continuity of treatment for patients.

Temporary workers are valued and accepted

Almost all (97%) of survey respondents rated the skill levels of their temporary allied health professionals as “fair to excellent”, two-thirds (65%) rated them as “good to excellent” and only 3% rated them. as “poor or terrible”. Respondents indicated that 94% of temporary allied health professionals were accepted by their managers, 83% were accepted by colleagues and 82% were accepted by patients. Most (75%) of survey respondents rated temporary allied health professionals as “as productive” or “more productive” than their permanent staff.

According to the survey, cost remains the main barrier to the use of temporary paramedics. A total of 56% of respondents cited cost as a barrier; other barriers included the learning curve and training needed for equipment and procedures (30%), licensing issues (27%), unfamiliarity with a service or practice (25%), and accreditation issues (24%).

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 589,000 healthcare workers left their jobs last September, representing a record voluntary attrition rate of 35%, according to the AMN Healthcare press release. . The report concluded that the need for temporary allied health professionals in the United States is likely to continue, driven by the need for more medical professionals of all types to support the physical/mental effects of COVID-19; anticipated global shortages of health care professionals; and the aging of the population.

The investigation report is available online on the AMN Healthcare website.

AMN Health. Survey of Trends in Temporary Paramedic Staffing. Published online December 13, 2021. Temporary Allied Health Professional Staffing Trends Survey

Heidi Splete is a freelance medical journalist with 20 years of experience.

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