New hospital topic of the week: Staffing a new facility

Since March 2023, Northern Arizona Healthcare has been successfully recruiting and retaining full-time staff significantly better than the national average for hospitals, and that is the strategy we will continue to use when we open a new hospital.

Contract labor expenses soared at hospitals throughout the country due to the unprecedented global pandemic. NAH, like other hospitals, relied on contracted traveling staff to address the surge in patients with very complex health care needs. Once the pandemic health care situation changed, NAH’s focus was on recruiting permanent health care staff and retaining those we employ. Through the hard work of our entire staff, from front-line colleagues and leaders, to our dedicated recruiters, NAH began beating the national average for retaining full-time staff in March 2023, and has maintained that success in retention as well as securing increasingly strong recruitment results for the last six months.

NAH has excelled at replacing the contract labor positions with full time employees. With a focus on recruiting front-line positions – and retaining the people we hire – we are better than most health systems in recruitment and retention.

We are often asked how we will staff the new hospital we are planning near I-17 and I-40, and the plan is simple: maintain our great work to attract and keep amazing health care staff.

Additionally, having a new facility means offering new hires a modern environment in which to work.

NAH’s Chief Executive Officer Dave Cheney frequently points out that one of our recruiting challenges is an inefficient facility that has reached its end of life after numerous expansions to keep it functional to date.

It can be harder to attract someone to work in 50-plus-year-old building that has been expanded to capacity and shows signs of its age in near failing infrastructure. For example: our intensive care unit that doesn’t have sufficient natural light; our emergency department where patients are frequently waiting in hallways because bed space is limited; our adult inpatient floors where there’s not room for several medical staff plus a visitor in the room; our ventilation system that is incapable of responding to a future pandemic; our double-occupancy rooms that do not meet current codes, per the Arizona Department of Health Services.

If the hospital were still efficient and able to serve the region’s growing population for another 50 years, it wouldn’t be a hard sell. But attracting the nation’s top health care talent to an old and inefficient building only makes our recent recruiting and retention successes more notable.

A few statistics exemplify the successes we will continue to build on:

Our contract labor at FMC has gone down by 30% from August 2022 to August 2023. That’s a significant improvement and reflects a continued downward trend in the numbers since the rapid increase in traveling staff to accommodate our global crisis during the peak years of 2020 and 2021.
Currently 11% of the nurses at FMC are travel positions. Our hard work to recruit and retain nurses and other positions following the difficult first two years of the pandemic is evidenced by the fact that we are better than the national average and better than the western states average for turnover.

Read our previous articles about the new hospital:

How we will redevelop FMC

Our project is 100% privately funded

More single rooms to meet care standards

Why we can’t renovate FMC

NAH wants to build the hospital this community needs