How Mercy Health ‘Uberized’ Its Nursing Staff

If the pandemic has taught Mercy Health’s workforce team anything, it’s that the multistate organization has had to change its workforce strategy and modernize its technology infrastructure to promote part-time contract “gig” nurses. Mercy executives called the move the “Uberization” of nursing staff.

Mercy is one of the 25 largest health systems in America, with 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 3,400 Mercy Clinic physicians and specialists, and 10,000 nurses serving millions of patients in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Mercy has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Like many health care organizations, Mercy struggled with a nursing shortage before the pandemic. The problem became even more acute when a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases caused many nurses to quit after experiencing high levels of stress, burnout and a need for a better work/life balance.

The fallout from the pandemic has accelerated the organization’s plans to add more nurses to its workforce.

We knew that nurses wanted to work differently because we had a hard time recruiting across the country, but when the pandemic came, we were sure that nurses who wanted to join our system wanted more flexibility. Not all wanted it. 12-hour shifts,” said Betty Jo Rocchio, Mercy’s senior vice president and chief system nursing officer.

To meet that need, Mercy has developed a cloud-based platform called Mercy Works on Demand (MWOD) that nurses can download to their smartphones. Compassionate nurses can choose hospital shifts that last up to eight hours or as long as four or two hours.

Launched in April 2022, the platform manages 1,187 gig nurses, 50 percent of whom are rehired.

Gig workers want to control their time

Mercy’s efforts to encourage former full-time nurses to rejoin as gig nurses underscores the importance of giving nurses more control over their careers.

According to data from management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, the number of nurses going into labor has increased 1,400 percent since the start of the pandemic.

The data also shows that despite lucrative financial opportunities for most healthcare workers in today’s market, only 20 percent to 30 percent of nursing and allied health professionals have accelerated their retirement plans.

According to Oliver Wyman’s research, 50 to 60 percent of nurses plan to change careers in some way, including a significant proportion (15 percent to 30 percent) who say they plan to work outside of healthcare.

“Nurses are overwhelmingly women, and many seek opportunities to care for children and dependents in addition to their work,” said Kathy Enders, senior vice president, research and health care industry analyst at The Josh Bersin Company. It will increase the participation of these nurses on demand.”

Enders added that a major obstacle for gig nurses is the lack of employer-provided benefits, but being able to set their own schedule “gives them more autonomy over their work in terms of engagement and performance.”

Building the MWOD application

Mercy’s HR and IT teams worked together to build a user-friendly platform with technology tools that help gig nurses engage with the health system.

The MWOD platform is built with texting capabilities and driven by artificial intelligence, and its machine learning capabilities recognize each nurse’s experience, skills, and qualifications, such as an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

MWOD also tracks which nurses choose a particular shift, how many hours they work, and what their specialty is, helping the system push alerts to the right nurse precisely when shifts are available.

“We have a profile of each nurse that allows us to know who can work in a specialty, and we make sure we only push the right shifts for that nurse,” Roccio said.

The platform integrates with iCIMS, Mercy’s applicant tracking system, which powers Gig’s employee applications. The platform integrates with Mercy’s staffing and scheduling system, UKG Dimensions, which helps Mercy’s HR team identify shift preferences and attendance patterns. Mercy uses Workday as its HR system, giving the HR team more transparency into the contract workforce. Workday also automates administrative processes.

According to Tracey Grimshaw, Mercy’s chief talent and organizational effectiveness officer, gig nurses can log into the app and view their shift schedules on MWOD. punch in or out of their shifts using the UKG Dimensions timekeeping, staffing and scheduling system; And get paid through Workday’s payroll management system.

“The systems are fully integrated,” Grimshaw said, adding that technology needs to be standardized, so Mercy Nursing leaders had to agree on several issues before the platform was rolled out to staff.

Behind the scenes, we had to get all of our nursing leaders aligned around how we think about gig worker pay rates, the standard definitions of what a gig nurse is, how we use them and how they work with us. ,” she said. It also took “a bit of work to get Mercy’s HR, IT and clinical staff to think the same way about this platform.”

According to Enders, establishing a gig nursing workforce through the MWOD platform and app has made Mercy a stronger organization and “increased the attraction of hard-to-find nursing talent to the organization. Having the opportunity to work part-time and flexible schedules makes it easier to compete in an incredibly tight labor pool.”

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.

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