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Resource Pools: A Flex to Full-Time Pipeline?

Healthcare staffing for census has always been challenging, even before the pandemic that completely overwhelmed the healthcare industry. Pay isn't their only consideration when it comes to clinicians finding employment. They also look for positions that offer flexibility and quality of life. Fulfilling these desires is where resource pools come in, which are designed as recruitment tools for clinicians who value flexibility. But can health systems leverage resource pools to convert short-term workers to permanent staff members?

What Is a Resource Pool in Nursing?

A resource pool in nursing is an internal float pool where registered nurses have the opportunity to train and work on various inpatient units within the same hospital or entire health system. They receive assignments based on unit need. Resource pools offer an ideal environment for RNs who enjoy variety and a continually changing patient population and work setting. While float pools typically include RNs, they can also have other staff like licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, and allied health professionals.

As the term implies, the pool of healthcare staff floats across hospital units where they’re qualified to work rather than remaining in a single unit. If a health system has multiple facilities, it may set up a centralized staffing office and float its resource pools across facilities throughout the system.

How Does a Resource Pool Work?

Hospitals that build an adequate resource pool can easily flex staff up or down based on changes in patient census and/or acuity levels. This flexibility helps healthcare organizations better deal with staff shortages, growth, seasonality and expansion. 

A highly customized, flexible resource pool should be designed to fit the size of a healthcare system’s census patterns. Thus, it’s less about traditional floating and more about building a strategic, internal staffing source to fill needs across the facility or system based on emerging demands.

Health systems have various ways to build their own internal resource pools, starting with determining what size and types of resource pools they could utilize best. A workforce analysis should help identify where needs lie and create the foundation for how the organization structures its various resource pools. This analysis can also help you determine the appropriate size of pool staff and distribution of resources to effectively fill known gaps and adjust for staff behaviors and census/acuity-driven demands.

Benefits of Resource Pools

Many hospitals with staff shortages may address the need for more nurses or allied health professionals by using external staffing agencies to fill their gaps. However, this solution comes at a significantly elevated cost. Floating is naturally more challenging, so float pool staff usually command a premium of 5% to 10% above core staff salaries.

But this higher cost is well below the price of outsourcing to a staffing agency providing high-cost temporary staff or shelling out for overtime pay. Thus, internal resource pools can help lower staffing costs. Other benefits of resource pools include:

  • Increasing patient safety and satisfaction while improving outcomes
  • Expanding staffing functionality to provide hospitals with more strategic options
  • Providing a cost-effective nursing pool without turning to overtime or incentive pay
  • Generating actionable data to fuel more effective staffing strategies
  • Making overall staffing processes more efficient

The flexibility offered in a float pool position can also improve a nurse’s job satisfaction. Greater satisfaction helps reduce turnover rates. The many hidden costs of turnover make increasing staff retention more important than some realize.

Flexibility Is a Key Attractant

The right strategy for attracting resource pool nurses hinges on being able to engage them when and where they want. While higher pay retains the greatest appeal, it’s not the only aspect enticing nurses to stay at a job. Flexibility and quality of life also get high marks. Resource pools also become recruitment programs that health systems can use to convert float staff into full-time roles.

According to the results of Vivian’s Future of Healthcare Work Report 2023, flexible schedules were among the top five factors healthcare professionals considered in their job search. Resource pools could attract those candidates looking for full-time opportunities but still want flexibility in their schedules and work routines.

To learn more about what healthcare workers are looking for, download the Future of Healthcare Work Report 2023.

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Senior Editor & All-Around Wordsmith. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract jobs.

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