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Staffing Guidance for Wound Care Centers

Staffing Guidance for Wound Care Centers

Staffing Guidance for Wound Care Centers

INTRODUCTION

Staffing of wound care programs can be challenging to department managers and their teams. Many learn by trial and error, and specific guidance can be difficult to find. Setting a budget for staff expenditure without understanding what the minimum number of staff needed to provide optimum care can lead to wasted effort and resources.  

Optimum staffing in a wound care center is not only a matter of number of staff members in a clinic, but it is the result of careful analysis of a set of variables. Ultimately, these variables affect the number of hours needed to care for patients and the team’s productivity. This topic identifies some of these variables and offers guidance on how to develop a lean, cost-effective and patient-centric staffing strategy. 

For centers that offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy services, please ensure guidance provided in the topic “Hyperbaric Program Staffing Guidelines" are followed first.

VARIABLES THAT AFFECT STAFFING

Patient variables

Caseload

  • Caseload is the ideal starting point. In wound care, time is tissue - thus, staffing should aim at improving patient access to care, with the right number of team members (not too many, not too few). That means, if the number of patients fluctuate throughout the day, week or month, staff should be hired and scheduled based on those fluctuations. Part-time and per diem clinical staff members may be utilized, provided they have experience and certification in wound care. 

Case mix

  • Types of conditions seen in the clinic have a direct impact on staffing. Appointments for some conditions will take longer than those for others. For instance, new patients with venous ulcers will need non-invasive vascular assessment prior to application of compression therapy, and the time needed for assessment and treatment should be factored in when scheduling appointments.  

Patient co-morbidities

  • Patient mobility, altered cognitive status or with special needs, presence of fecal or urinary continence likely increase appointment length

Referral sources

  • Are most cases of inpatient or outpatient origin? In-patients need to be transported to the clinic and clinic staff’s help may be needed.

Staff members variables

Qualifications and scope of practice

  • Wound care is a niche, specialized field in medicine. Experienced clinicians are in high demand, and recruitment focus should be on retention, in order to offer patients continuity in wound care
  • Clinicians in a wound center include but are not limited to [1]:
    • Nurses
    • Nurse practitioners
    • Physicians: may have different backgrounds such as general surgery, emergency medicine, plastic surgery, infectious disease, vascular surgery, rheumatology, orthopedics, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), podiatry, family medicine, etc. Besides providing direct care, physicians also supervise allied healthcare personnel so that procedures performed by the latter can be billed (e.g., application of negative pressure wound therapy) 
    • Physical therapists: can apply biophysical technologies including use of therapeutic ultrasound, lymphedema management, sharp debridement, total contact casts, seating evaluations, etc
  • For roles in hyperbaric centers see topic " Hyperbaric Medicine - Job Descriptions & Training Guidelines". In hyperbaric centers, it is important that all wound care personnel be cross trained for HBOT and that the HBOT is cross trained for wound care. In that way, when scheduling at the HBOT unit allows, the hyperbaric technician can help out in the wound clinic, or when the hyperbaric technician is on vacation, wound nurses can provide coverage for HBOT services.

Experience and/or certification in wound care and/or hyperbaric oxygen therapy 

  • As in the wound care field much is learned through experience, certification in wound care is beneficial so that team members can share the same basic knowledge of wound care and HBOT. 

Staff mix

  • It is important to consider questions such as “How can the right mix of clinical professionals be hired so that optimum services can be delivered without wasted resources?”
    • For instance, medical assistants can manage rooming and patient flow, provide clinical support and patient care, and help complete documentation on the EMR, while wound-certified nurses provide wound-care specific interventions
    • In centers where nurses are responsible for insurance verification, authorizations and database entry, fewer nurse-hours will be spent on direct care and more nurses may be needed to cover patient demand. [2]  

Vacation policies

  • Vacation policies have a direct influence on staffing and are predictable

Clinical operations/ workflows

Protocols and processes

  • Development of established protocols and processes (both clinical and business-related practices) to help streamline patient care and analyze revenue cycles from admissions through discharge.[1]
    • When staff members are overwhelmed, it is very common to think that the addition of extra staff members is the best solution. However, this solution may be short-sighted and collaborate to hide inefficiencies in workflows and processes. Establishment of lean protocols and workflows with identification and elimination of wasted time, resources and bottlenecks will help clarify the real need to add extra staff members. As a result, staff members’ time, productivity and satisfaction will be optimized.
  • We suggest development of lean workflows that leverage technology (e.g., telehealth) to save staff’s time and improve patients’ satisfaction. (see tool "Telehealth Conferencing Tool")

Tips on Lean Staffing

  • For determination of number of full-time employees, centers can use acuity and productivity tools.
    • Benchmarking tools may help understand staffing needs for each center. The staffing tool created by Larson-Lohr for wound care and hyperbaric medicine centers incorporates elements of both patient acuity and staff productivity and provides suggestions on number of full-time employees (FTEs), more specifically nurses, to cover patient demand in a wound and hyperbaric center.[2] These tools are not meant for daily use, but rather to establish a benchmark for the center. 
  • To improve motivation and retention, suggestions below can be employed  [3]
    • Hire responsibly: hiring people with the right fit is important for a cohesive team and retention of high quality staff. Expectations should be clear. For instance, if work hours change with case load, it is important that the policy be clear to all staff members
    • Share financial information such as profit/loss variables portion of financial reports. Transparency is important to bring everyone onboard
    • Turn to staff members for solutions. Typically the best solutions come from people who live the problem. 
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NOTE: This is a controlled document. This document is not a substitute for proper training, experience, and exercising of professional judgment. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents, neither the authors nor the Wound Reference, Inc. give any guarantee as to the accuracy of the information contained in them nor accept any liability, with respect to loss, damage, injury or expense arising from any such errors or omissions in the contents of the work.

REFERENCES

  1. Johnson M. Effectively Staffing The Multidisciplinary Wound Clinic in 2015 Today's Wound Clinic. 2015;volume 9(6):.
  2. Larson-Lohr V. Productivity and acuity tool for wound care and hyperbaric medicine centers. Undersea & hyperbaric medicine : journal of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, In.... 2003;volume 30(4):271-5.
  3. Pallardy C. How to use the 4 pillars of ASC lean staffing without sacrificing your A-team employees Becker's ASC Review. 2015;.
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