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Managing Temporary Staff in Sterile Processing

The market for temporary staff (i.e., travelers) is red hot. More and more sterile processing staff are leaving permanent positions to dabble in the market. With this, a hole is being created in many department's staffing schedules. Like nursing, there is a shortage of qualified people to help fill those gaps. But this is true too when it comes to finding quality temporary staff. Many staffing agencies often hire sterile processing techs with only a couple of years of experience in the field, leaving managers to train them once they come on board.

It has been my experience, from decades of using temp staff agencies, to look for key factors in the resumes of the temp staff coming across my desk to help fill my vacancies. Just as in hiring permanent staff, not everybody is a fit for your facility. Questions you need to ask:

  1. If their experience is minimal, how will I manage training them if needed?

  2. What specialties do they have that fit the direct needs of my department?

  3. Do they have enough experience to make critical judgment calls when needed?

Lastly, have a phone call with the applicant to see if they match the profile provided by the agency. Often, the applicant's profile ratings are provided by the technician themselves and not by a qualified individual at the agency. Ask the hard questions as you would in an interview.

Once you have selected an individual and your offer has been accepted, prepare an onboarding process. An orientation process is required by surveying entities and helps the individual understand your expectations and helps them adjust to their new environment. For me, my goal is the select individuals with enough experience so that any training is minimal. Remember, most contracts are for 13 weeks. I don't want to spend that time advancing someone's career only to watch them walk out the door. This is where temp staff vary from permanent staff. They are there to fill a short void, and they are expensive. Find individuals for whom you get your money's worth. To minimize risk, evaluate their skills and place them in only a few areas of your department to help you capture productivity and high-quality work.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, the market is red hot, and it's a dog-eat-dog world. Don't wait long to get back to individuals, or you will lose them. Respond in a few hours or less if you think the individual is a good fit, more than 24 hrs, and you have probably already lost them.

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