What are contingent workers?
As the national physician and nursing shortage continues, many healthcare organizations turn to contingent workers to mitigate the gap and serve patients. In this article we will discuss the types of contingent workers in the healthcare industry, why healthcare organizations need contingent workers, and the advantages of being a contingent worker.
A contingent worker is an employee who accepts assignments to work and will not receive the traditional benefits that the other employees receive. These benefits include:
- Health, dental, vision, or life insurance
- Paid time off
- Sick leave
- Vacation pay
Other names for contingent workers include temporary contract, per diem, or locum tenens—a Latin term meaning to hold the place of or to substitute for. Contingent workers are hired by a healthcare organization on a short-term, per diem, or consulting basis. Contingent workers fill gaps in staffing without needing to provide benefits or pay employment taxes.
Related: What Is a Contingent Worker?
Types of contingent workers in the healthcare industry
In the healthcare industry, there are three common types of contingent workers. These include:
- Temporary contractors
- Independent contractors or freelancers
Temporary workers are employed by a staffing agency and contracted to the facility. Their assignments can last anywhere from a few days to several months, often with the option to extend the contract. Temporary contractors fill staffing and skills gaps.
Considered experts in their field, consultants advise organizations within their area of expertise. While some organizations have in-house consultants, many hire consultants from outside their organization. Some types of healthcare consultants include:
- Infection control
- Quality assurance
- Revenue cycle
- IT and Technology
- Nurse consultants
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Staff development
- Legal consultants
Consultants typically offer services for highly specialized and complex areas. Like temporary contractors and freelancers, consultants typically are non-employees. Unlike temporary contract workers, however, consultants typically work with a high level of independence. They may offer guidance on strategy, policy and procedure and areas within the organization, but they don't usually execute the work required to carry it out. Consultants are hired through consulting firms or as independent contractors.
Independent contractors or freelancers
Freelancers and consultants who aren't employed by a staffing agency or consulting firm are considered independent. These individuals are self-employed and offer their services. They are responsible for all employment-related taxes and are not eligible for benefits provided by the company.
A company may hire freelancers or independent contractors when it needs specialized services or expertise for a short period of time or regularly, but not at a full-time level. The company defines the deliverables, but it cannot control when or how an independent contractor gets work done.
Why do healthcare companies hire contingent workers?
For healthcare companies, there are many benefits for hiring short-term workers. Some of the most common reasons include:
Due to the physician and nursing shortage, many healthcare organizations have turned to contingent healthcare workers to fill in their organization's skills gap. Using contingent workers and the gig economy is a great way for these organizations to supplement their staffing shortage. Hiring these workers ensures there are available workers with the needed skills.
Healthcare companies using contingent workers have potential advantages in cost-savings. Because contingent workers aren't paid as employees, employers save on hourly wages, payroll taxes and benefits.
Scheduling continent workers give employers the added benefits of:
- Scheduling flexibility
- Faster and more cost-effective hiring
- Faster onboarding
- Saving money and time on onboarding
- Less overtime pay
- Helps alleviate full-time and permanent staff overload and burnout
Advantages of being a contingent worker
Hiring contingent workers is advantageous for the employee, but it comes with advantages for the employee.
- Flexibility. Many contingent workers have full-time or part-time jobs or businesses, so working on a contingent basis allows them flexibility. They seek job opportunities that fit around their schedules.
- Competitive compensation. Because organizations do not provide benefits for contingent workers, they are often offered competitive compensation.
- Professional development. Contingent workers work in various settings and have the opportunity to work with different types of employers. As a contingent worker, you'll get to use your skills and build upon them on each work assignment. You'll be exposed to different industries and specialties and learn new skills and knowledge, and gain an array of experiences that you can add to your resume or CV to make yourself more marketable.
“Try before you buy”
By taking the contingent route, you'll get to showcase your skills at a variety of organizations within the healthcare industry. Working for different companies and working under different managers and supervisors will allow you to identify what type of company works best for you. If you like a specific organization and proven that you are an asset, there may be an opportunity for you to hire on as a permanent or full-time employee. Experimenting with different work environments is a great way to determine what suits you best.