April 24th, 2020 | Sterling

Healthcare Confronts a New Talent Management Reality with COVID-19

A conversation with Val Poltorak, General Manager, Sterling Healthcare and Life Sciences

As 2020 dawned, the healthcare industry was already facing talent shortages and increasing regulatory oversight at the federal, state, and local level. When COVID-19 hit the United States, it upended an already challenged industry.

“In a matter of days, everything intensified. We had clients across the healthcare spectrum, from health systems to long-term care and assisted living facilities, reaching out to us, letting us know that they were looking to staff up immediately, and that time to onboard new candidates was even more critical than ever,” said Val Poltorak, General Manager of Sterling Healthcare and Life Sciences.

“There was a palpable shift to what can only be described as a wartime footing”, continued Poltorak. “Our clients on the front lines had critical staffing needs to fulfill in order to battle against the spread and impact of COVID-19. Our primary objective was to help them get those candidates onboarded once they were identified and had accepted offers.”

Foresight and Preparation

Over the past several decades, Sterling has made a significant investment in technology and automation, working to integrate with as many court systems as possible, in an effort to streamline and optimize background searches and time to hire.

Additionally, Sterling developed a rigorous business continuity plan (BCP) that would allow the company to serve its clients in the event of a crisis or catastrophe. Many scenarios were planned for, and one key feature was enabling remote work across the globe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put Sterling’s technology, automation, and BCP to the test.

“We’ve seen our global workforce of over five thousand people transition quickly and effectively to remote work. Meanwhile, our technology has allowed us to continue to fulfill criminal searches in over 95% of US jurisdictions, and 98% of all searches where clients have opted into a statewide search,” noted Poltorak.

A viable BCP and an agile talent management partner offers multi-faceted solutions. “Technology is key, but it’s also about listening to the industry, and learning how to best partner with our clients,” Poltorak said. “There was a need from our clients to see more service-based, as well as tech-enabled, solutions. In 2019, we introduced a new Clinical Concierge Service. This solution allows healthcare companies to use Sterling’s help in managing and providing oversight of clinical tests, such as physicals, fit tests, immunity tests, and others required prior to onboarding job candidates. Sterling’s Clinical Concierge can help oversee the process, including welcoming and guiding candidates, identifying a convenient and qualified testing facility, scheduling the visit, and ensuring the clinic has appropriate staff and supplies to fulfill services.”

Meeting Industry Needs During COVID-19

Poltorak recently offered clients a list of recommendations to consider, as well as some shared examples of how healthcare talent management teams may overcome onboarding screening challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. They include:

  • Shift screening roles and agreements to enable reallocation of client team members
  • Enable mass/ group screening measures
  • Engage through automated screening services
  • Collaborate to gain awareness of regulatory changes

“When it was becoming apparent that COVID-19 was going to have a huge impact on the healthcare system, one of the first requests we had was from a well-known children’s hospital. In just four days, we were able to assist with the management and oversight of their drug and health screening program, which allowed them to reallocate key team members to work with COVID patients,” stated Poltorak.

A recurrent scenario playing out during the pandemic is the request to have Sterling screen large numbers of medical professionals in an effort to ramp up staff. For instance, one state required that hospitals double their capacity, therefore requiring more staff. In another example, Sterling helped a healthcare staffing company screen thousands of emergency response nurses to be deployed to pandemic hot spots across the country.

Sterling’s Healthcare team was able to move a national home health company from a manual background screening process to an efficient automated system in under two weeks. Sterling’s solution decreased time to hire, increased productivity, improved accuracy, mitigated the risk of human error, and helped to improve compliance. In regard to COVID-19, this solution significantly impacted the firm’s ability to hire and scale their program as the needs of the organization changed, and it addressed the immediate need to hire a large number of healthcare professionals in a short time.

Regulatory Requirements

In response to the pandemic, some federal, state, and local government bodies are temporarily revising regulatory requirements. Several states have temporarily relaxed and/or modified the requirements around occupational licensing laws in emergency situations – all in an effort to have enough qualified healthcare professionals at facilities to support the anticipated surge of patients afflicted with the coronavirus.

Still, other states have answered the call to action and responded in more specific ways. The National Conference of State Legislatures recently published an article that includes a list of states that have responded, as well as a detailed list of actions specific states have taken.

“Sterling has a team dedicated to tracking regulations and compliance updates. Since the COVID-19 onslaught, they are working to make our clients aware of changes in a timely fashion,” stated Poltorak. Additionally, Sterling has created a COVID-19 Updates webpage with useful updates.

The Road Ahead

While most businesses are grappling with uncertainty in terms of how the pandemic will play out, it would benefit healthcare organizations to equip themselves for a “new normal.”

“Our team is poised and ready to put Sterling’s resources, knowledge, and expertise to work for our clients, and our communities,” said Poltorak.

To learn more about Sterling Healthcare’s solutions and services, visit sterlingcheck.com/healthcare.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.