Forbes contributor and freelance expert Jon Younger wrote a compelling piece in September 2018 discussing the concept of how certain freelancers can help small businesses reach their full potential. A section of his piece touched on what he referred to as a “blended workforce” that helped a small, New Jersey dental practice become one of the largest in the state.
The practice in question started out as a solo practice some 40 years ago. Today it is among the top independent practices in the nation with capabilities few other independent practices have. At the heart of what they do are part-time and locum tenens staffing.
Younger refers to locum tenens as freelancers. It’s a semantics issue and nothing more. Whether you call place-holding medical professionals locums or freelancers doesn’t change the fundamental principles of what they do: they provide temporary, short-term services.
The Blended Workforce Concept
Younger’s take on the blended workforce idea makes a lot of sense when you dig through its multiple layers. The New Jersey dental practice he profiled uses all sorts of professionals to make things work. Practice staff include full-time dentists and hygienists as well as an army of part-timers. The practice utilizes locum tenens clinicians to fill temporary vacancies and offer special services on an as-needed basis.
Using locum providers in this way allows the practice to do some unique things. For example, they can offer specialty care that is not always in high demand and without having to keep a group of full-time specialists on staff. They can mix and match full-timers with part-timers and locums to make sure every shift is covered.
Of course, this sort of arrangement takes a lot of cooperation and a ton of organization. Thus, there is more to it than just hiring enough part-timers and locums to complement a full-time staff. It also requires a strong administrative department.
Strong Organizational Skills Required
Just the thought of growing a practice by employing the blended workforce model might be enough to scare private practice owners away. Indeed, it’s not an easy concept to wrap your brain around given how long traditional employment models have been entrenched in healthcare. One thing is for sure though: strong organizational skills are required to make the blended workforce model work.
A practice would need a competent administrative and HR staff with experience in locum tenens. Administrators would need solid working relationships with staffing agencies they can trust. To tie everything together, it would be in the best interests of the practice to contract MSP services that include a comprehensive software platform.
A good MSP (managed service provider) platform is a cloud-based platform offered by way of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription. It is a data-driven solution that connects practice administrators, staffing agencies, locums, and practice owners in a centralized environment that keeps everyone in the loop.
Office Training Also Helps
One final component Younger pointed out in his article is the need to provide appropriate office training in a blended environment. Full-time staff obviously set the tone for workplace culture and day-to-day procedures. Part-time staff should be trained to do things the same way their full-time counterparts do. As for locum tenens, they can also use at least introductory training designed to orient them to how the practice does business.
According to Younger, the part-time and locum tenens staff at the dental practice he profiled integrates so seamlessly into the culture that patients have no idea they are dealing with a blended workforce. That says a lot. Among other things, it says the blended the workforce concept can work.