Becky Kahn, Chief Client Officer at Works & Trusted Health

It’s no secret that health systems across the U.S. continue to struggle with the nurse shortage despite concerted efforts from federal officials to grow the workforce. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projected that the demand for registered nurses would hit more than 3.6 million by the year 2030 – meaning that the field would have needed to add nearly 50,000 new registered nurses each year since 2014 to meet that demand.

While the use of travel nursing and a local agency is a tool many hospitals and health systems use to help with seasonality census increases or leaves of absence, many hospitals are turning to staffing technology to optimize their pre-existing clinical workforce and rely on filling gaps through the use of ‘float pools’ as a way to increase the stability of our clinical workforces and offer the flexibility many clinicians are looking for today.

Creating a New Staffing Model

One staffing model that has proved effective for increasing nurse retention and maintaining health system resources is the use of ‘float pools.’  Float pools, also known as internal resource pools, are a staffing method used to minimize nurse shortages. Float pools consist of skilled, adaptable registered nurses who have existing knowledge of the hospital to work in various departments and clinical settings. Float pool nurses differ from travel nurses, as they are hired by a single hospital or health system on a full-time, part-time, hourly, or per diem basis, and typically live in the region they are serving. Many health systems rely on float pools to address fluctuations in patient census, acuity levels, and unit-specific staffing needs. When coupled with labor management software, health systems can rely entirely on internal pools to mitigate staffing challenges. 

There are many benefits to relying on nurse float pools. While travel nurses are temporary, float pool nurses are typically permanent fixtures in a facility or system, allowing them to form strong working relationships, understand the cultural nuances, enhance collaboration across departments, and easily adapt to unit-specific protocols, routines, and patient care plans. Float nurses provide consistent, high-quality care and contribute positively to the overall performance of the units they support. The method also allows clinicians to provide real-time support for fluctuations within the hospital, allowing nurses to move between units, as needed. From the perspective of the health system, relying on an internal workforce reduces their reliance on external agencies, increases operational efficiency, and provides flexibility to clinicians to work when and where they want to. 

Leveraging Technology for Staffing Innovation

Float pool staffing does not come without its challenges. Managing a float pool can significantly increase time spent on identifying open positions, scheduling nurses, and handling administrative logistics. This process is often decentralized within a hospital, creating the potential for disorganization and confusion. 

However, with the right people and a strong infrastructure, float pool nursing can be a highly effective strategy for addressing staffing shortages and adapting to organizational needs in real time. One way to mitigate these struggles is to utilize workforce technology to centralize float pool management under one department. Software and digital tools that predict staffing needs, create a unified supply pool, and fill open shifts will be central to creating a successful internal float pool model. With the goals of reducing manual touchpoints and filling open positions quickly, health system leadership can ensure that nurses are satisfied with the staffing process and are meeting their own professional goals. This human-centric approach is necessary to ensure the longevity of the nursing workforce and strengthen the entire system. 

About Becky Kahn, Chief Client Officer at Works & Trusted Health

Becky Kahn, Chief Client Officer at Works & Trusted Health, is an experienced healthcare workforce solutions and staffing leader. She joined the company in 2019 as the Head of Client Solutions and took a brief hiatus from the company to serve as the Chief Executive Officer at Republic Health Resources, a mid-sized hospital staffing firm. She later rejoined Works & Trusted Health as the Chief Client Officer where she has been responsible for the development of the company’s account management and direct staffing efforts, significantly growing the Trusted presence across the US. Khan was a key player in launching the Works VMS platform to hospitals and health systems across the country. 

Before joining Works & Trusted Health, Kahn served as the Managing Director, UK Operations, at Medacs Global Group, the largest provider of international healthcare staffing and workforce solutions in Europe. Prior to that, she spent nearly sixteen years of her career at AMN Healthcare where she held several executive leadership positions and was responsible for the oversight of AMN Healthcare’s travel nurse client sales and services and local staffing divisions, as well as the account management of AMN’s Managed Services and Workforce Solutions product offering, and technology divisions. Khan launched AMN’s Managed Services solution and grew it over her tenure to over $2 billion in spend under management. Khan is a passionate leader who is dedicated to bringing sustainable workforce solutions to healthcare.