Break into Healthcare Staffing by Choosing a Niche in Allied Health

In response to innumerable reports and articles analyzing the effect of the nurse shortage on American healthcare institutions, it seems as though everyone wants to get into medical staffing. Whether it’s starting up a new staffing service or trying to cross over into the new segment, most entrepreneurs are eager to enter the industry by dabbling with temporary nurse placement.

It’s true that temporary nurses make up the majority of the healthcare staffing industry’s revenue volumes. According to Staffing Industry Analysts Inc.’s 2004 estimates, approximately 70 percent of the $11.2 billion healthcare staffing industry volumes could be attributed to nurse staffing. (See figure 1). However, top industry analysts warn that nursing may not be the best route to take if you’re considering a way to break into the healthcare staffing business.

Even though there is now and there will continue to be a high demand for nurses well into the future, analysts warn that the market is already extremely saturated with vendors, and getting involved with it is not as easy as one may think. Can you imagine the heightened level of competition that exists between temporary nurse staffing agencies today? In fact, most of these nurse staffing businesses are struggling to find ways to set themselves apart from their competition. In the last issue of Recruiting and Staffing Solutions, I discussed how some of these agencies are choosing to become JCAHO compliant to give their company a competitive advantage. Another way to get ahead of your competitors is to create a unique niche in the market and perfect it.

The United States’ aging population will have an effect on all segments of the healthcare staffing business, from nurses to locum tenens to allied health. Some critics contend that it’s the latter two growing and relatively untapped segments that are the key to a successful entrance into the medical staffing industry. (See figure 2). Allied health especially offers more specialization, less competition and extremely lucrative growth opportunities.

The definition of an allied health professional is any kind of specialist in the medical field other than a nurse or a doctor. Examples of allied health professionals include physician assistants, pharmacists, surgical technicians, radiology and ultrasound technologists, and rehabilitation therapists to name a few. According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the good news about the allied health industry is that 13 of the top 30 largest projected percentage increases in employment from 2000-2010 are allied health professions. Personal and home care aides, medical assistants, physician assistants, home health aides, and physical and occupational therapist aides are among the 13 “hot sectors.”

Interestingly enough, even though there is high growth projections in the allied health industry, vacancy rates are rampant and rising. The National Center for Healthcare Workforce Analysis reported that 70 percent of hospitals were having difficulty recruiting imaging techs from 1990-2001. In addition, surveys conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology revealed that 2,800 hospitals’ pharmacist positions were unfilled and 1,800 radiation therapist positions were empty in 2003. Healthcare providers like hospitals and clinics are desperate to get these positions filled, and they will look to the medical staffing industry to help them fill the vacancies. So the door is wide open for staffing companies who are willing to enter the unique niche of supplying allied health professionals to medical institutions.

Think of it this way: an allied health company who specializes in staffing physical therapists at local hospitals will not have nearly as much competition as the general temporary nurse staffing agency that is going after the same hospitals as the other 50 agencies in their area. So whether you are thinking about starting a healthcare staffing company or you are thinking about adding it to your staffing repertoire, try to fill a specialized niche by choosing to staff allied health professionals.

*Reprinted fromRecruiting and Staffing Solutions Magazine