Healthcare worker shortages have forced changes to the current healthcare system—the latest has turned nursing into a gig.
- Massive hospital systems like Providence and Advocate Health are now using apps similar to ride-share companies to hire nurses, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- Some apps, like ShiftKey, allow workers to bid for shifts. Others like CareRev help hospitals adjust pay depending on the supply. For example, popular day shifts pay less, while less desirable night or holiday shifts pay more.
- As hospitals join the gig economy, they can directly compete with temporary staffing agencies and expand their pool of employees.
- Hospitals have their regular staff, but shifts are up for grabs to any nurses in the area, meaning hospitals can share staff.
- Many nurses seem to like this new system as it gives them greater flexibility and control of their schedule. Having more available staff to call on also alleviates some of the stress caused by the labor shortage.
Why it’s news
Many healthcare workers left the field during or shortly after the pandemic, exasperating an already troubling worker shortage. With more hospitals using gig apps to hire workers, nurses now have the upper hand in negotiations.
Hospitals will often offer different pay rates depending on how desirable the shift is. In at least one Los Angeles hospital, workers were offered $106 per hour for a 12-hour shift in the intensive-care unit on Easter, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Even with this new system, hospitals are still running short on staff. Gig apps are more desirable for many nurses than temporary staffing contracts. These contracts will often lock nurses in for several weeks at a time. With the app, nurses can come and go depending on the schedule they set themselves.
While gig apps give nurses greater flexibility, they also mean less certainty for employers. Gig apps open the hiring pool to a broader range of available nurses, but management staff may not be as familiar with the gig nurses as full-time staff.
Relying on area nurses to select their own shifts also means management cannot know whether a shift will be fully staffed.
Even with the unreliability of gig work, hospitals still use this system to fill in the gaps. Advocate Health hospitals in Wisconsin and Illinois have used this method since August 2022. During that time, they filled 5,000 Wisconsin shifts using gig nurses. The hospitals plan to expand the program to its Illinois facilities.
St. Louis-based SSM Health uses two gig apps for advertising premium pay for shifts that can be as short as four hours. Providence hospitals in Renton, Washington, have filled 13,000 shifts since implementing a gig system just a year ago.
Providence plans to offer gig shifts at 19 hospitals and nursing homes. It currently runs the program at 12 facilities. In another move to attract workers, Providence is also breaking up the standard 12-hour shift into six hours, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Some hospitals will also adjust the pay to fill last-minute openings. Los Angeles-area hospital Henry Mayo adjusts its pay up or down by 5% depending on how desirable the shift is. Management can manually set higher pay rates to fill last-minute or especially urgent shifts.
However, this method risks incentivizing nurses to wait until the last minute to sign up for a shift, making gig work even more unreliable for hospitals. Despite the uncertainty, the need for nurses is not going away, and unless healthcare facilities can find another solution, gig nurses may be here to stay.