Data Shows Flexible Nursing Workforce Can Fill Dreaded Summer and Holiday Staffing Gaps

Data Shows Flexible Nursing Workforce Can Fill Dreaded Summer and Holiday Staffing Gaps

Every nurse is familiar with the underlying anxiety of not working a holiday. At the core of that anxiety is a specific fear: the fear of receiving a desperate call from a nurse manager asking them to come into work despite the fact they’re not on holiday rotation. Likewise, every nurse manager maintains a similar level of dread during the holidays and when the summer rolls around. Nobody making or receiving that call wants it to happen, but it does, like clockwork, every year.

Having a fully-staffed nursing unit on days like July 4th, Christmas, or any week during the busy summer travel season tops the wish list of every clinician on staff, for every hospital executive looking to provide the best care possible, and for every family unfortunate enough to have a loved one in the hospital on holidays. But often it doesn’t happen. As the nursing shortage continues – and, in some areas of the country, gets even worse – hospital leaders are struggling to staff their facilities and honor fully paid time off during holidays. Nurses know well ahead of time which holidays they’re working for a given year, but nurses are people, and people lead lives that tend to run afoul of long-term plans. They get sick, change jobs before their rotation begins, and experience urgent personal crises that leave them little choice but to call off. All situations inevitably arise in the short term and create holes in the staffing schedule, forcing nurse managers to dial their way through the phone tree until they find those willing and able to fill them. 

But it’s not far-fetched to believe in a future where nurses can choose whether or not they want to work during a holiday. In this future, the underlying anxiety of waiting on a phone call on Christmas or July 4th morning does not exist, where the dread of making that phone call is eliminated, and where hospital executives can rest assured that their facilities are fully staffed every day of the year.

In the future, hospitals have a flexible pool of qualified and eager nursing professionals they can count on to bolster their workforce on holidays and allow their core nursing staff to be with their families and loved ones.

Filling the Gap with a Flexible Nursing Workforce 

No matter the holiday, the hospital can be a dreary place when the rest of the world is celebrating, relaxing, and enjoying time off. This is true for most core nursing staff, patients, and families. Yet, a latent pool of flexible nursing talent has demonstrated that nurses are available and eager to pick up holiday shifts and, most importantly, can be relied on to complete them.

CareRev, a technology platform that provides flexible, high-quality healthcare staffing, is one of several digital tools that have emerged in recent years to help healthcare facilities fill shifts throughout the year. According to CareRev data from 2023, hospitals and healthcare facilities have successfully used per diem nursing talent to fill the holiday staffing void.   

During Thanksgiving this past year (a notoriously tricky holiday to schedule), CareRev maintained a 95% shift completion rate, meaning per diem nurses not only knowingly picked up shifts on that holiday but completed them. Further, CareRev’s analysis found cancellation rates on holidays to be lower than cancellation rates on non-holidays, an indicator that per diem nurses who intentionally pick up shifts on holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Christmas Day are explicitly available and open to work these shifts. Additionally, 95% of holiday shifts filled on CareRev’s platform were held by RNs, indicating a lesser need among hospitals for CNAs during holidays.

It is important to note that much of this success is derived from personal relationships and continued partnerships. CareRev’s data shows that 80% of filled assignments on holidays have been sent by a healthcare facility directly to a nursing professional working shifts consistently in their facilities. This demonstrates how facilities can develop positive, trusting relationships with a contingent workforce that can be relied upon to bolster their staff during the most stressful times of the year.

While the scramble to fill shifts during holidays and summer always begins with anxiety and dread, it ordinarily ends with nurse managers offering their core staff some financial incentive. This can be minimized with a flexible workforce. CareRev’s data shows 85% of its filled assignments during holidays in 2023 were filled at a base rate, sans the need for facilities to include a bonus or boosted rate.

Some healthcare facilities have discovered that maintaining a fully functional nursing staff during holidays is possible when nurse managers have access to a flexible pool of high-quality nursing talent. And that might be the most fantastic holiday gift of all.