What a difference a year makes.
If you think back to last April, you’ll quickly remember we were in the midst of a worldwide lockdown.
With more than 3.9 billion people in more than 90 countries and territories ordered to stay at home by their local or federal governments, we could have never anticipated what the next 12 months would bring — and the tragedy this pandemic would hand our global community.
And nowhere has that level of suffering been felt more than in our hospitals and healthcare facilities. Here, providers from all specialties and backgrounds were thrust to the frontlines to deal with the devastating reality of COVID-19 and everything left in its wake.
“The pandemic impacted everything about our industry,” says Ryan Scharer, Chief Operating Officer, and co-founder at Hayes Locums. “As people were coming into the hospitals, some incredibly sick with COVID-19, all of the focus shifted to understanding the threat and how to keep people alive.”
That shift meant all elective procedures and treatments came to a temporary standstill as hospitals were transformed into COVID management centers — a fact that put a hard stop on a lot of jobs for locums providers.
So, how did the Hayes Locums team make it through those early months of the pandemic? According to Scharer, they focused on what they could control, got back to the basics of good business, and relied on three fundamental principles.
“Nobody had been through anything like this before, and things were changing from day to day, minute to minute. This meant that communicating in a way that was clear, consistent, and constant was incredibly important. We connected almost weekly through company-wide calls and made it our mission to be as transparent as possible with our entire staff about what was going on, what we were seeing, and how everyone was doing. As the pandemic evolved, when certain specialties were able to practice again or when elective cases started picking back up, we also needed that constant communication to keep everyone informed and get our providers back to work.”
“When business came to a halt, we did have to make the difficult decision to downsize our team. This abrupt shift in personnel, paired with the new normal of remote working, meant we had to figure out how to get more done with fewer resources and staff members. We had to get creative — a challenge that ultimately made us more efficient as an organization.”
“To navigate through this tough time, our recruiters definitely became savvier. They were constantly looking at the most up-to-date information and became subject matter experts in how the different states responded to the pandemic at different times. Those rules and laws were constantly changing, so we had to stay consistently informed to navigate getting our providers placed in different areas of the country.”
Now, nearly 13 months later, those fine-tuned skills still benefit the Hayes teams, but not without a few new challenges.
“It’s an interesting time in the staffing world; I think the pandemic shrunk the physician population a bit,” Scharer explains. “There are plenty of physicians who were retired or semi-retired who, because of the stress of the pandemic, have decided to stay retired. So, while the care needs are coming back, there are fewer people to provide it.”
On top of that is the issue of physician burnout — a real concern after what’s arguably been the toughest year in most of their careers. Vacations, sabbaticals, PTO were cancelled or delayed and many of our providers were asked to work more hours. We are seeing providers leave full-time practice to pursue locum tenens. They don’t want to be trapped again in a contract.
“As the patients come back, many providers are going to be asked to work more hours and, for some, that may not be worth it anymore. This is where working as a locums provider allows you that freedom and that ability to choose where you work and what you’re comfortable with. In this position, you have the option to move on to a different place or hospital if your current situation is no longer serving you. That’s a real benefit to a lot of people, now more than ever.”
But even with these new hurdles, it’s clear the healthcare industry has started to come back around as individuals are receiving the vaccines, people are feeling safer about seeking treatment, and things are beginning to get back to “normal.”
“There’s much more confidence in the market now, for sure,” says Scharer. “Hospitals are in great need of our services again, patients feel more secure about going into a hospital setting and getting treatments — the whole country is coming out of it. And the future really does look bright.”