Bergen New Bridge Medical Center has brand-new ways of engaging with its workforce.
Deborah Visconi, CEO and president at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, said whether it’s nurses, respiratory therapists or certified nursing assistants — they’re calling on professionals to come in and work shifts at the hospital as “gig workers.”
It’s only for a lack of a better term that she refers to them as such, she said. But that’s the term everyone’s using for these workers who want extra flexibility. And hospitals want them.
Although the organization is the first hospital in New Jersey to do this, hospitals across the Garden State — and around the country — are looking for solutions to well-reported staffing woes. That stems partly from a retirement surge during the pandemic, when about 100,000 nurses nationally exited the workplace, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Gig work arrangements are one of the options hospitals are starting to turn to in order to make up for those losses.
Hospitals are doing that through third-party companies such as CareRev, an app that serves as a staffing marketplace for health systems. Aside from signing up on the app, Visconi added that these gig workers have to get credentialed and follow other typical screening processes before working at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center.
So far, Visconi counts it as a success.
“It has actually been successful enough that we’re trying to expand it to more job types, outside of primarily front-line nurses and (certified nursing assistants),” she said. “I hope it can expand to social workers, counselors, lab technicians and any other professionals who are in short order, so those ancillary workers can take advantage of this as well.”
Visconi said the feedback from staff, including permanent staff at their hospital, has been terrific.
“Using this gig worker-type of approach, it’s really fostering the unique needs of our workforce today,” she said. “It’s all based on their personal situations. You might have a stay-at-home mom who has to be with her kids five days a week and can only work weekends or nights; someone might just need extra money and need to pick up extra shifts.”
Visconi refers to it as the “bookends” of the workforce. Those just starting out want the flexibility to dictate their own work schedule; those near retirement don’t always want to be tied to the Monday through Friday 9-to-5 grind.
“So we’re addressing both sides of that spectrum,” she said.
In the past, hospitals had been accustomed to using more rigid and structured worker arrangements set up by temporary staffing agencies.
Not every organization affiliated with health care is supportive. National Nurses United is one of the labor organizations that has voiced skepticism of anything that can be considered “gig work” in the health care sector.
From Visconi’s perspective, patients don’t notice a difference. Workers are put through all the same training and rigor required of full-time staff. The gig workers are also supplementing care in roles that hospitals are finding it hard to recruit currently, she added.
For a lot of reasons, Visconi’s sense is that type of arrangement will only pick up steam.
“I know it’s going to be something that grows in the not-so-distant future,” she said. “And it’s just one of the ways we’re leveraging technology differently than we have in the past.”
The hospital is also embracing technologies that could help mitigate social determinants of health, better monitor chronically ill patients with wearable devices and to improve discharge plans and other protocols through artificial intelligence.
“We’re always looking at how we can utilize the latest innovations to improve what we do,” Visconi said.
Reach Bergen New Bridge Medical Center at: newbridgehealth.org or call 201-967-4000.