Embracing Flexibility: Reshaping Healthcare with Internal Staffing Agencies


Hospital executives discussing healthcare staffing

By Tara Drosset

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, flexibility has taken center stage. As staffing shortages continue to be a pressing concern for healthcare organizations, leaders are recognizing the need to adapt to the changing dynamics of the workforce. A crucial strategy in this adaptation is the development of internal staffing agencies. Recently, Rob Crowe, EVP Per Diem and Local Workforce Strategies at Medical Solutions, founder of Matchwell, and a seasoned expert in healthcare staffing, sat down for a podcast interview with Becker’s Hospital Review to discuss how the use of internal agencies help create an agile work environment that benefits both healthcare professionals and institutions alike.

“I think there were some macro trends happening, even pre-pandemic,” says Crowe, “but it was really during the pandemic that this need for staff skyrocketed across the industry. Many healthcare systems were caught unprepared, and the only viable option was to turn to external agencies. This sudden surge in demand led to inflated rates, and we saw the number of clinicians working through agencies quadruple. At the heart of this problem, clinicians were leaving full-time positions to chase higher-paying agency roles, leading to retention issues and wage inflation.”

The Shift Towards Flexibility

What’s driving this shift towards internal staffing agencies and flexible working arrangements in healthcare? The answer lies in a broader societal trend – the increasing desire for flexibility among workers.

“Flexibility is quickly becoming the new currency. . . It’s now table stakes,” says Crowe.

And it’s not just the new generation seeking flexibility; it’s a trend that transcends generations, making it a critical factor in attracting and retaining staff. Crowe notes, “Workers across all industries are seeking more control over when and where they work. I call it work-life harmony. This harmony is now a priority, not just for the newest generation but increasingly for everyone.”

The pandemic was undoubtedly a catalyst for healthcare systems to address more flexible offerings, and many have since started to realize they have the unique opportunity to build their own internal staffing programs to meet their clinician’s needs while also protecting themselves from high costs.

“There’s a place for true travelers. . . but when local workers move to external agencies for higher pay, it creates issues. Any clinician, regardless of their work-life preferences, should find a way to work for you.” – Crowe

Best Practices for Embracing Flexibility

Crowe offers valuable insights for organizations looking to develop a flex-force, and an internal staffing strategy is at the heart of this transformation. Internal staffing programs offer a structured approach to meet these needs without compromising full-time positions. By providing options for short-term shifts and longer-term placements, hospitals can optimize their existing workforce and clinicians can find a way to work within your health system. 

“The pros are fairly straightforward. Having a defined workforce program helps organizations cover more openings before turning to external agencies. It optimizes staff, provides flexibility, and aids in retention.” – Crowe

  1. Define your organization’s need: Identify the specific problem you want to solve. Start with a focused approach before expanding to address broader workforce challenges.
  2. Draw a hard line on agency use: Limit external agency use, especially for clinicians living within driving distance of your facilities.
  3. Determine wage classification: Establish clear guidelines for pay ranges and benefits for flex workers.
  4. Embrace technology: Leverage technology solutions tailored for internal staffing to streamline recruitment, scheduling, and communication.

“You can’t solve all your workforce problems with one answer. . . Let’s embrace it one step at a time. It’s not a straight path. It can be a winding journey and open the door for so much to be possible.” – Crowe

Embracing more flexibility using internal channels is a very real future of healthcare staffing. It allows healthcare organizations to adapt to the evolving workforce while ensuring clinicians have the work-life harmony they want and need. Organizations that invest in flexibility will be positioning themselves to attract and retain top talent for a more agile and resilient workforce.

To hear more from Rob Crowe on workforce flexibility through internal staffing agencies, access the full podcast here.