- Staffing firms Aya Healthcare and Fastaff Travel Nursing reported surges in demand for temporary healthcare staff over the past week, according to a Jefferies report based on an analysis of job postings and data on the firms' websites.
- Aya showed a 17% increase in jobs available from March 9 to Monday, March 16, from 11,500 open positions to 13,400. Fastaff listed 257 jobs available as of Monday — up 66% from the prior week and the highest level tracked over the last 12 months.
- The surge comes as hospitals prepare for an influx of patients with COVID-19, potentially squeezing an already tight labor supply. Frontline healthcare workers who come in contact with infected patients and become ill or quarantined could take away more desperately needed nurses and physicians.
While job losses are mounting nationwide as businesses shutter, healthcare workers are needed more than ever to deal with the influx of patients. As of Wednesday morning, nearly 6,500 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the U.S., but that number will certainly grow as testing becomes more widely available.
Fastaff Travel Nursing is a Denver-based firm that focuses on rapid response, quick turnaround assignments — deploying nurses to desperately needed hospitals in times of crisis. It's one of the many staffing firms facing an explosion in demand for workers as the country prepares to combat a pandemic.
Lauren Pasquale, vice president of marketing, told Healthcare Dive demand for nurses is especially strong, and staffing shortages coupled with wide scale outbreaks could push some health systems to the brink.
David Savitsky, CEO of ATC Healthcare Services, another staffing firm, told Healthcare Dive one of the biggest concerns among physicians right now is being exposed to the virus and passing it on to other patients — further straining the industry's labor supply.
Savitsky himself is fresh out of a two-week quarantine following exposure to the virus in New Rochelle, New York, late in February, though he showed no symptoms. His firm is also facing increased demand for physicians who can treat patients as testing expands and numbers grow, he said.
Those on the frontlines of care worry about other shortages too — namely a lack of proper protective clothing and gear, along with a lack of ventilators to treat patients with the respiratory illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance last week aimed at cutting red tape to meet the heightened demand for services, including a roll back of personal protective equipment standards from N-95 respirators to allow simple surgical masks.
Some advocacy groups, including National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, said the measures fall "drastically short of what is needed to stem the danger of nurses becoming infected and exposing patients, family members, and other healthcare staff."
Not requiring suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients to be placed in negative pressure isolation rooms at all times could also put nurses at greater risk, the union said.
It requested the immediate distribution of all state and federal stockpiles of personal protective equipment for nurses and healthcare workers. Prioritizing testing and paid quarantine for healthcare workers who are exposed is also crucial to preventing spread, and could help meet the demand surge, NNU said.