Since a temporary radiologic technologist was accused of stealing drugsfrom a New Hampshire hospital and giving patients hepatitis C through infected syringes, troubling reports of his past have emerged — casting a spotlight on the staffing industry as a whole.
David Kwiatkowski worked in 13 hospitals in eight states between January 2007 and July 2012, when he was arrested in a Massachusetts hotel room “in an intoxicated state,” according to court documents. During that time he was employed by at least two staffing firms: Triage Staffing and SpringBoard Healthcare Staffing.
A surge of contract employees have entered the work force since 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Businesses turned to staffing firms to handle their workload until they were more certain of their company’s future. More than 25% of all new jobs created were temporary.
The health care industry was especially affected by the economic downturn in recent years, said American Staffing Association spokesman Steve Berchem. Patients put off elective procedures amid hospital uncertainty over effects of the Affordable Care Act.
“Many health care professionals were seeking the flexibility that contract work allowed and were leaving hospitals with vacancies,” Berchem said. “Hospitals are turning to staffing firms to fill those vacancies to make sure they have the employees and staff and skills they need to ensure quality care.”
Approximately 1.7% of the health care industry’s work force is now composed of temporary or contract workers, according to ASA data. That’s about 240,000 employees, compared to the nearly 14 million full-time health care workers in the United States.
But those temporary employees play an important role in hospitals, Berchem said. They fill in gaps in almost every field — from nurses to physicians to med techs and administrators.