Has the future of part-time work shifted?
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the healthcare workplace. Stress, burnout, and lack of work–life balance and flexible work hours contributed to the mass exodus of nurses from their jobs. On-demand, per diem staffing models and travel nursing boomed, and the growing gig economy spurred another flexible staffing approach: gig nursing.
Gig nurses work as contractors employed directly by the hospital, not through a nursing agency. They pick up a few extra shifts and don’t have to commit to full contracts or long-term agreements. Similar to the convenient Uber or Lyft apps for ordering rides, new gig nursing apps make it easy for healthcare facilities to connect with per diem nurses. Trade-offs, such as the lack of benefits, exist, but nurses can control when and where they work.
Research reveals that the post-pandemic pool of healthcare professionals, including nurses, who want either extra shifts or flexible work models without contracts tops 18 million. That’s an incredible resource for hospitals and healthcare organizations to tap for solving the issue of ever-changing patient demand.
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Some current staffing approaches seem like rehashes of old solutions, such as job-sharing or the expensive craze surrounding travel nurses. Internal tactics have hospitals demanding nurses work overtime or extra shifts, whether the nurses want them or not, leading to more burnout and dissatisfaction.
Gig nursing initially focused on long-term care, but it’s now moved to acute care. But will it last? Is it finally a staffing solution that gives the power to nurses to determine when and where they work?
This is how it works: The nurse uses an app to post when they want to work. Employers post the shifts they need filled. The nurse gets an immediate notification of available shifts that match the time slots they want to work. Looks like a win–win situation to me.
Like the process of requesting a shared ride, the driver (healthcare facility) and the rider (willing nursing professional) get quickly matched, leading to a filled opening for that shift. The nurse is paid promptly after the shift. Several variations of this model appear to be developing around the country, both in individual hospital systems that can draw from their regional geography and in staffing companies that can serve growing regional service areas.
According to online testimonials, the advantages to the nurse include filling their entire work schedule or pulling extra shifts when and where they want. The advantage to the healthcare facility includes quickly and amicably filling unexpected staffing gaps during a sudden census surge.
The gig nursing model won’t solve the nursing shortage by creating more nurses, but it takes advantage of the large on-demand workforce and gives nurses more autonomy to determine when and where they work and how soon they get paid. We still need to address the nursing shortage crisis and take steps to prevent burnout and dissatisfaction. And I don’t believe gig nurses will replace the traditional need for part-time nurses. However, over 43% of the United States workforce participates in the gig economy, of which nursing now plays a key part.
Lillee Gelinas, DNP, RN, CPPS, FAAN
American Nurse Journal. 2023; 18(3). Doi: 10.51256/ANJ032304
Aiyer S. Like Uber for nurses. HomeCare. April 1, 2020. homecaremag.com/april-2020/technology-staffing-challenges
Merrilees A. Fighting to find nurses, Mercy experiments with Uber’s ‘gig woker’ model. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 22, 2022. stltoday.com/business/local/fighting-to-find-nurses-mercy-experiments-with-uber-s-gig-worker-model/article_9f62061a-724f-5aac-91da-a1d638dad61d.html
Siwicki B. Uber for nurses: An app lets nurses work when and where they want. HealthcareIT News. November 10, 2022. healthcareitnews.com/news/uber-nurses-app-lets-nurses-work-when-and-where-they-want