As frantic healthcare lobbyists, concerned politicians and puzzled policymakers argue over the size and severity of the nursing shortage, crafty entrepreneurs are looking for ways to turn a form of flesh-peddling into financial fortune.
In recent weeks, two of the leading temporary healthcare staffing agencies have announced plans for initial public offerings of stock. Cross Country of Boca Raton, Fla., hopes to raise $115 million, while San Diego-based AMN Healthcare values its upcoming IPO at up to $172.5 million.
Critics of healthcare profiteering are sure to have a field day when these nurse registries begin issuing disclosure statements about executive salaries and growth strategies. Hospital executives will be tempted to join the chorus, as they blame temp agencies for helping drive up their labor costs and shrinking the pool of available nursing talent.
Don't waste your time. Temporary staffing agencies are here to stay. They offer nurses flexibility, mobility and a decent paycheck. Many caregivers prefer those kinds of benefits to the workplace stability offered by hospitals. Registries took on an even greater luster once nursing supervisors began pressing staff registered nurses to work frequent swing shifts and overtime.
But with nurses retiring or cutting back on hours, temp agencies face the same shallow staffing pool as providers. They need cash to expand and are turning to Wall Street for support. The trade-off is more public disclosure of their business practices, which have long been maligned by hospital managers.
Under current market conditions, healthcare organizations are forced to use nurse registries as a staffing lifeline. Administrators should ignore the temptation to blast these companies. Let the media and other watchdogs debate the merits of adding more middlemen to the caregiving process.