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033: Staffing Solutions for Medical Personnel – Gretchen Finniff
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In this episode I talk with my friend, Gretchen Finniff, of Medical Solutions. We discuss the industry of travel nursing and how to meet the diverse healthcare professional needs in an ever changing environment. Gretchen shares her experience in sending medical professionals to front lines to supplement shortages nationwide.


Sam Schutte 0:05
In today’s show we have Gretchen Finniff. She is with Medical Solutions and met Gretchen through the Cincinnati Rotary Club. And we’re going to talk about healthcare staffing for hospitals.

Sam Schutte 0:40
Gretchen, welcome to the show.

Gretchen Finniff 0:41
Thanks so much for having me, Sam.

Sam Schutte 0:43
No problem. So tell us about your background. How did you get into business development for hospital resources?

Gretchen Finniff 0:51
Well, through college I was actually an EMT in the state of New York and also worked as unit coordinators on multiple floors. Back In the day, and you know, fast forward when I moved to the Cincinnati area, I worked at Bethesda hospital, in their surgical department and then went on into private practice. So I have this, you know, pretty wide ranged medical background, and then ended up in the nonprofit sector for a long time. And about this time last year, I was really looking for my next challenge. And I had a friend who also, you know, works for Medical Solutions. And she had always spoken very highly of her experience, what a fantastic culture that they have. And so I threw my hat in the ring and was hired June of last year as the development executive for them.

Sam Schutte 1:41
Cool and what does your company do?

Gretchen Finniff 1:43
So Medical Solutions, we are the second largest agency in the country, and we provide temporary staffing for hospitals and other hospital facilities. So we primarily are focused on travel, nursing and allied professions.

Sam Schutte 3:05
Okay, so tell me about travel nursing. People may not know that that even exists.

Gretchen Finniff 3:09
It’s an interesting story. So what I learned through this process was travel nursing actually is a relatively newer profession. It actually started in the 80s. There was a gentleman in the Omaha area who had actually gone on, I believe it was spring break down to New Orleans with his buddies, and they wound up in the ER, and realized as he was sitting in the ER, he realized, boy, they you know, they’re really running around here and we’re short staffed. And so when he got back to Omaha, he got to work and launched the first travel company for travel nurses to go help short staffed facilities. And that’s really the birthplace Omaha is the birthplace in the hot spot for, you know, the travel industry for nursing.

Sam Schutte 3:57
So that’s something where those folks will travel You know, like, if there’s an emergency or something like that, first and foremost, I guess, is that where they kind of flood? You know, like if there’s a hurricane or something like that, I guess? Or is it just something that’s always there.

Gretchen Finniff 4:08
it’s an ongoing need for facilities? So you think about it. You know, staffing is tough for a lot of companies in general, you know, there’s, you know, temp agencies for administration to engineering, and this is the medical field. So, you know, you have staff members that need to take, you know, FMLA, because they’ve had surgery or there’s, you know, they’re having health issues or for whatever reason that they have to step away from the job for an extended period of time. That’s where we come into play. You know, like, our typical length of contract for us is 13 weeks, which is a quarter. And so that’s our, you know, when we send a traveler to a facility, they’re, they’re usually for that length of time, and we can also, you know, customize that depending upon the needs of the facility. But typically, you know, we’re staffing anywhere from you know, ICU to ER to med surge and respiratory therapy. To speech therapists to the or so we you know, as a company, you know being that we are a large company now, we’re able to staff a hospital from the C suite all the way down.

Sam Schutte 5:12
Interesting so and what I have found in staffing when you’re able to sort of recruit from all over the place, it lets you get a lot higher quality employee or resource sometimes then you can find in your own backyard, do you think that’s something else will sort of take advantage of because you know, they can go and find the best med surge person out there nationwide? Or, you know, instead of just having to look in their own small town somewhere?

Gretchen Finniff 5:35
Excellent question there, Sam. So we do pride ourselves as a company that we do work with some top notch professionals. We have a very extensive process. We have 14 clinical nurses on staff that starts the process of interviewing, pre screening, any of the candidates that are looking to travel with us as a company in represent Medical Solutions. So we you know, we have a whole Compliance team. So when we present a candidate to a hospital, you know, they get their full resume, but then we also do all the background work the legwork that’s required to get a traveler to a hospital. So, you know, we really do pride ourselves on being able to, you know, present to our clients into our hospitals that, you know, we have a quality candidate for them to review and to hire and bring on board and, and be a part of their team for a time period.

Sam Schutte 6:24
And I guess, you know, I’m a little out of date, but you know, what, what can you tell me about the shortage? I remember a couple years ago, there was a, you know, quite a shortage of nursing staff that, you know, there were hospitals were getting pretty desperate and paying massive signing bonuses and things like this. Is that still sort of the case of we have a lot of new people moving into that profession.

Gretchen Finniff 6:43
Yep. There’s, there’s so a shortage in the industry. And we’re still seeing that, you know, fortunately, you know, the schools haven’t been able to keep up with the needs and especially as our population is aging. You know, the baby boomers was a very large generation of people. So we have a lot have clients that were going to be taken care of in the future, you know, until the schools, you know, can keep up, you know, and just attract individuals into the profession. So I think there’s always going to be a need for agencies like Medical Solutions,

Sam Schutte 7:14
and you mentioned compliance and stuff before. I mean, you know, compliance is something that can be such a struggle for for particularly smaller medical outfits, you know, smaller hospitals, and I don’t know, if you do you only work with, you know, some of the biggest hospitals you work with smaller, smaller agencies,

Gretchen Finniff 7:32
we work with them all, you know, they could be, you know, a 10 bed, critical access hospital in rural rural America to some of the largest facilities in the country. That’s the one thing I from a sales perspective, one thing I love about my job is that I get to touch all 50 states plus Guam if I wanted to, but unfortunately, one of my one of my co workers already had Guam locked down, but you know, we do have a large footprint. So I do have the To work all over the country,

Sam Schutte 8:02
is that so? Is that something with those smaller ones to do you all get involved with helping them keep on top of compliance, you know, because, I mean, you’re doing your own compliance for your staff, but then you have to figure out how to fold them into systems and rules they have, you know, within their facility.

Gretchen Finniff 8:18
So what we do when I establish a relationship with a new client, and when I reach out to them, I say, okay, exactly what requirements do you look for in your roles? So I make sure I communicate that to my team, my compliance team so that we’re all on the same page. You know, we’ve all you know, Medical Solutions, we already have a very well established template for what we put our, you know, our checklists through for every candidate that we’re placing, but we also absolutely honor the the input from all of our clients and make sure if they have anything special that they also would like to see in addition to what we are already doing. We’re covering it

Sam Schutte 9:00
You mentioned earlier, you know, working with those customers, I mean, how do you all sort of focus on customer service? As a mindset?

Gretchen Finniff 9:09
I think the the key is we really listen to our clients and what their needs are. And we try to deliver top notch service to our, to our clients. So we, you know, we want to make sure we get the right candidates, not only, you know, to be on an ongoing basis with them, but we react as their needs do change. And that’s key.

Sam Schutte 9:28
So, on a day to day basis, I mean, you’re you’re obviously talking to people who have needs, and then you’re, you’re working to try to fill those needs. What kind of software systems or tools do you use to kind of stay on top of that? I mean, what, where do you spend most of your time,

Gretchen Finniff 9:44
So from? So we have our own? What do you call them CRM, and it’s called Pulse it was developed for us. And then we we work off of Pulse and we also work off a 2.0. Those are two platforms that I like leverage for my job. And they both were, you know, custom built for us. And the and I do feel for all platform designers out there because as soon as you think you have a built then something changes in the industry that impacts that platform. And so we you know, everyone you know, it, you know, because the 2.0 was the original model. And so it’s dos based, it’s slow, it’s cumbersome. But as we all know, it’s very expensive to move platform to platform. So we, you know, they did establish Pulse, which is my database that I look at, that’s where all my hospitals are house and they kind of communicate back and forth. So yeah, there’s, you know, there’s days where 2.0 is not my friend and other days it is.

Sam Schutte 10:47
And so, you know, being in sales, I mean, how do you, I guess, do you manage a lot of inbound folks reaching out to you or do you have to do a lot of, you know, reaching out and cold calling knocking on doors or what’s kind of your main method of making something happen?

Gretchen Finniff 11:03
Sure. So, you know, I’m a BDE. And we do have other what we call client facing positions in the company. So, you know, we have account managers, so they have specific hospitals that they work with. And that’s, you know, that they focus on, I’m out there generating new business, and that’s my role. And, so yes, I do the cold calling, I’m knocking on the doors of the hospitals calling around talking with the decision makers, to see how I can help support their needs. And and then we also have the, our career consultants, those are the individuals there are recruiters, they work with the professionals. So their role is to go out and get the professionals to you know, that I find the jobs, they bring the sap.

Sam Schutte 11:53
Understand, okay. So when you’re talking to, let’s say you’re reaching out to a hospital. I don’t know if it would be like, Chief of Nursing or your Who’s your like, by title your main,

Gretchen Finniff 12:06
It’s funny because it’s really it can go hospital hospital can be very different. And, um, you know, and that and that’s kind of the joy of my job is figure out who is the decision maker for that particular hospital and it’s, it’s just through conversations with the staff is how I navigate those waters. You know, a lot of times, you know, you think that it’d be the chief nursing officer that would have that decision power, but yet, you know, HR handles that or maybe the nurse recruiter handles that decision. And then ultimately, my contract gets signed off by the CEO. So it’s just learning the channels per hospital.

Sam Schutte 12:41
So when you reach out to them, I mean, what are the what’s your, what’s your elevator pitch? What are the real values you try to convey so that they want know more?

Gretchen Finniff 12:50
It’s really listening to first you know, and foremost, it’s listening to them and in once you get that door open up conversation is that you know, what are their needs, and then I address it, you know, One at a time. And, you know, the reality of it is, you know, yes, I have in my division, you know, we’re very much on top of, you know, ICU med surge OR needs, it’s a little harder for me sometimes to get with a lab tech, because we just don’t see that many of them that are out there looking for a travel position. So it might take me longer to get them. But it’s about education. It’s educating my client as to what resources I have at my fingertips, and I will definitely turn it around as fast as I can, upon request.

Gotcha. Do you all do like I mean, what kind of content I guess to share, you know, you talked about education a little bit. I mean, do you invite people to webinars? Are you sending white papers? You know, or is it more just trying to build that relationship and have conversations?

Most of it is building the relationship. You know, we certainly do send what you know, when there’s any, you know, statistics out there that we find, you know, from an industry perspective Active that would, you know, kind of reinforce what we are able to, you know, provide? We definitely share that type of information with them. But really it is it’s a lot of relationship building.

Sam Schutte 14:11
Gotcha. And you talked about your past, you know, working on some of the on some of the floors and and being in EMT and stuff. What’s special advantage Do you think that gives you when you’re working with these customers?

Gretchen Finniff 14:26
I think the advantage is that I’ve been in their shoes, you know, I’ve worked in there in those hospitals I’ve been you know, I started off in telemetry work CCU ICU med surge. So I understand their language, their needs, and I know what their you know, their 24 hour clock looks like, and I think, you know, that’s definitely you know, my foothold.

Sam Schutte 14:45
Gotcha. Cool. When you’re talking to those customers. I mean, I guess what kind of relationship do you have with them? Typically, I mean, it’s something where you’re kind of touching base with them on a weekly basis, monthly basis are, you know, how do you kind of keep that going,

I kind of gauge each you know, client. I I think the larger the hospital, the more, you know, touch points you have to have with them. They tend to have more, you know, a lot more opportunities, you know, turn over that, you know, that I can help with versus, you know, some of the smaller hospitals, but the smaller hospitals, you know, they do look out long term, so they know that they have a pregnant nurse, you know, at nine months, they’re going to need to have someone fill in while there’s a maternity request taking place. So I make sure that I put them into a certain, you know, kind of follow up rotation and follow up is key with any client. Sure,

With just everything that’s been going on recently with Coronavirus and all this. What have they been leaning on you more to do and how has that kind of changed? everything you’re doing?

Gretchen Finniff 15:41
Yes, I have to say, Sam, it has been a very interesting time period in this industry because just the immediate reaction in the needs, and you know, there’s so much in the beginning of all this, there’s so much uncertainty as to how things were going to play out what needs they’re going to have. So some hospitals were a little slower than others. You know, because they really played the, you know, the weight game, and then it was like, Oh, you know, oh, no, we need people like yesterday. And then it’s you know, so then, as an industry, we really had to lean on what we call our rapid response protocol. So that enables me to get travelers to a facility at a much quicker rate. So, you know, try to give you a little timeframe, you know, so when a hospital tells me they have a need, I post out the job. I, you know, pulled together profiles of candidates that want to submit for their job, they review it, do the interviews, and then you know, let me know who they want to hire. And from that point on, then, you know, it’s on in normal conditions, it’s takes me two weeks to get a traveler to their facility, you know, after they’ve run through that whole compliance process. And once I have a complete compliance file to send to them, you know, I can basically have boots on the ground in their hospital within two weeks of a higher rapid response protocol, move that timeline to five business days, because we know they need them much sooner. So they make you know, so we went through their all the protocols, we say, Okay, I can live with this information. But I definitely need to have this information in order for them to start working. Right. So that was, you know, we moved a lot of my clients to a rapid protocol, just because they were desperate to have staff. And then some of my clients currently are in the process of preparing for the next wave. So in that preparation, they are actually encouraging all of their perm staff to take a vacation, go home, rest up, you know, rejuvenate. And then they’re also doing the same for my travelers because they know they’re going to need them back. So, you know, so we’re going to a rotation right now and trying to you know, figure out who can take a break and who can who do we need to keep working, you know, and so that’s one thing you know, with the whole COVID is just, you know, we’ve put a lot of amazing people to work out in the field to take care of COVID patients, people who actually stepped away from their perm jobs took a leave of absence because they wanted to go out to the front lawn. To me, that’s been the most inspiring of this entire pandemic for me is the people that, you know, wanted to get out there and help.

Sam Schutte 18:08
Yeah, I don’t think people realize that I hadn’t heard that. And how are people traveling? If they’re, I mean, is it something you know, if they’re going from I don’t know, California, New York or New York? Are they driving? Are they getting on a plane?

Yeah,some are. It’s funny. I, you know, I hear I would hear tales, especially towards the beginning of, you know, our travelers on the airplane, and literally, it’s all medical staff flying to positions to help, you know, the facilities. And then in a lot of people were driving. I mean, I place a lot of West Coast people on the east coast. So, it’s definitely been a very interesting time. Because the thing is, you know, when all that hit, and then all the elective procedures went down. There’s a lot of furloughed nurses out there. And unfortunately, some of those positions, some of the furloughed nurses, we can’t put them to work because it’s not a desired need right now. Now, you know, because you know, the hot topics for COVID You know, it started off in the ER to the ICU to respiratory therapist became a very hot item. And then we’re also you know, seeing some, you know, needs and you know, med surge and telemetry and labor and delivery, but very few in comparison to the other. The other units,

it’s interesting, my brother in law is a nurse, and as a nurse in Portland, in med surge, and he’s, you know, he has said before he could do ICU like, he’s, it’s not that he’s not, you know, educated or whatever background to do it. He just would have to do some kind of certification or training or something, right. And then what they want him, they’re tripping over everybody and being in the way if he doesn’t know, you know what I mean, so exactly,

Gretchen Finniff 19:44
well, we do. Yeah, we do have standards on that. So as a company, you have to have worked in that discipline solid for a year to two years before we will allow you to even the interview for the position. So you know, when I go and call a client I say, okay, you want to fill an ICU position? How much? How many years experience do you want to look at? And they tell me, so but our standard is you have to have one year in before we can submit you for that position.

Sam Schutte 20:14
Yeah. And I saw today that a lot of the major airlines out of Cincinnati anyway, where we both are, are suspended. Like, there’s basically no direct flights coming out of CVG right now, you know, the Delta suspended like 20 different flights or something like this, right. And so it’s way cut down. So I mean, it sounds like, you know, to some degree, people have much option to fly, you know, here if they’re trying to get somewhere.

Gretchen Finniff 20:37
Oh, I know, they it’s gonna be interesting how, how the whole impact on the airline industry? Yeah.

Sam Schutte 20:43
I imagine once they’re, you know, if they’re on the frontlines in New York, I mean, even once their time is up, they can’t just come back,

Gretchen Finniff 20:48
Right. Well, that’s where the rental car industry gets a boost.

Sam Schutte 20:52
Yeah, but I mean, they’d still they have the quarantine or something, if they’ve been, you know what I mean before they come home,

Gretchen Finniff 20:58
um, potentially, it depends. You know, I’m not, you know, fully knowledgeable and you know what that’s gonna entail. And it’s state by state difference too. So yeah, depending on where they’re coming from.

Sam Schutte 21:11
Well, like I know Hawaii right. So we were supposed to take a vacation Hawaii this summer got canceled canceled. And you know, if you land in Honolulu today, they don’t really try to your hotel for two weeks. Like you cannot go

Gretchen Finniff 21:22
right. You cannot go right. Oh, I know.

Sam Schutte 21:24
you can go to a hotel in Hawaii. That’s about it

Gretchen Finniff 21:27
I have a contract in Honolulu. And so it’s gonna be a while before I get to go visit that contract.

Sam Schutte 21:33
Yeah, exactly. So and it’s interesting because I was talking to someone the other day do an interview and we talked about how, you know, there’s always sweet spots in any of it. friends of ours that we have you and I who are in businesses such as doing a lot of printing for restaurants. So like, yeah, they’re they’re hurting. I mean, without a doubt because of all this, but I would imagine if you know, if you’re doing staffing for medical positions, like, you are you all are doing probably pretty well or, you know, very busy.

Gretchen Finniff 22:03
Yeah. I mean, I know that I’m extremely fortunate to work not only for an awesome company, but also to be able to work at this time. I mean, I know there’s a lot of people whose jobs have been impacted. But I also have worked seven days a week throughout this pandemic, because I have hospitals that need us. And I want to make sure that I get them what they need, and that’s travelers. And so, you know, I’ve been putting in 14 hour days, seven days a week.

Sam Schutte 22:31
They’re an unsung hero.

Gretchen Finniff 22:33
They, I don’t think people realize how much we’re in. And it’s just, it’s not just me, it is a whole team. You know, we have over 700 employees that Medical Solutions, and I’m telling you, every one of them is going to be in desperate need of a vacation. Because they have put in a tremendous amount of effort to take, you know, to from recruiting new professionals to the you know, to travel nursing, to getting them out to the facility. I mean, everyone you know, between In our housing department to our placement team, to, you know, our clinical nursing team who is had to say up on licensure, you know, because there’s rules about, you know, we have compact states, which, you know, there’s 20 plus states that you can cross state lines with one license, basically. And then there’s individual states that, you know, you can only have a New York license, or you can only have a California license to, you know, practice your profession. And, and, you know, we have to stay on top of executive orders, you know, it which is always changing, you know, they had to keep moving out the line, because they didn’t know how long you know, in order for New York to receive the number of travel professionals to their state, they had to open up an executive order to allow everybody in come help, because there weren’t enough of those professionals in that state holding a New York license to handle the traffic that they had. There’s so many mechanisms that we’ve had to you know, develop and keep up with To be able to do our jobs to beat so our, you know, our, you know, our travelers are compliant. I mean, there’s so much involved in this position, and I had no idea when I signed on the dotted line when I came to this company, how many mechanisms take place, but it’s they’re brilliant. I mean, they really cover a lot of risk areas, you know, because it’s a risky business, right, medicine’s a risk. And we were, you know, in that and that’s part of our guarantee as a company, and our customer service to our clients that everything that we do we do for a reason, and that’s to protect them and also, you know, provide them with a top notch service.

Sam Schutte 24:38
So what are your personal goals? I mean, where would you like to go next in this field? I mean, where do you see yourself, say, three, four years from now after after being there?

Gretchen Finniff 24:48
That I I honestly, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. You know, I I’ve had several careers leading into this career. And, you know, I’ve done leadership, I’ve done management I’m having I have to say I absolutely love this job I love what I’m doing right now and there’s you know there’s definitely it’s a great opportunity to make money but I love the people I work with so really right now I have to say I’m pretty content Sam

Sam Schutte 25:18
well maybe it’ll maybe you know someday move back into management or something there but

Gretchen Finniff 25:21
we’ll see we’ll say i don’t know i you know I’m this job release brought out the competitor me boy and I love what I do. I love the hospitals that I work with. And you know, the team that I’m on

Sam Schutte 25:33
you know, it’s funny cuz I remember when I was writing software years ago, you know, of course, I wanted to move into management want to move into man? Yeah, right. And I had a boss that said, Why do you want to do that? That’s not any fun at all. Like what you’re doing right now is the fun stuff, you know, stay in enjoy it a while, right. And, you know, I think sometimes getting in and out and doing the real hands on work sort of caught in the field, you know, like, like you are, is sometimes more fun than look In a budget and spreadsheet exactly,

Gretchen Finniff 26:02
because I’ve done the looking at the budget and the spreadsheets and training and all that. So I’ve been there done that and I’m thoroughly enjoying what I’m doing doesn’t mean you know, maybe you know, down the road Medical Solutions has a new challenge that like, you know, step up for, I’m sure I’ll be open for because that’s just who I am. But today, it’s pretty sweet. Great. Cool.

Sam Schutte 26:23
So I guess just to summarize, what are the what are the three main problems that if folks are listening that are you know, working at a hospital, what are the three main things is to reach out to you for help with?

Gretchen Finniff 26:37
Well, obviously, number one staffing issues. So if you you know, you have members of your staff that are you know, taking extended period of time off. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to help support you, your and your team, in essence so that you aren’t struggling to meet your schedule. Your staff isn’t working in overtime into a deficit on the budget. You know, that’s what we’re, you know, we’re here to focus in, in help provide that, you know, additional support, you know, the one thing you know, people tend to forget is when management has to take time away, we have amazing leadership professionals, from CNOs, to, you know, Director of nurses, you know, to other fields, that you we can help fill those spots. So I think, you know, some facilities do tend to forget that that’s an option for them. And then, you know, we also, you know, we have two different types of contract, I have a standard contract. And I also have what’s called the MSP, which is, you know, a product where it, it’s more multi, you know, I become your number one provider of travel needs for your facility. But I also have a lot of affiliates that I can reach into, to help you know, and pull into to help provide even more traveler. So, you know, for instance, you know, in some of the Allied position positions that we do have You know, sometimes have a hard time filling, I can reach out to affiliates, maybe they have more that I can access. So, so, you know, we’re, you know, we’re a growing company, we bought up a couple more companies last year, we keep adding for our roster and keep strengthening our toolbox. You know, we’re out for domination.

Sam Schutte 28:22
Okay, I love it. So if folks want to learn more about the company, what’s your website? And then if they want to reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to contact you? Yeah,

Gretchen Finniff 28:31
well, medicalsolutions.com, you know, go out, learn more about our products about our services about out and if you want to become a traveler, you know, me or you know, somebody that’s in the profession that wants to become a traveler, we’d love to have them on board. You know, I can be reached locally I’m in, we have offices all over the country. So you know, we Omaha’s, our main office, and then you know, we’re here in the Cincinnati Blue Ash office, but we have offices out in like Sanford, San Diego. Denver, Tupelo, Mississippi down in Tampa, Florida. And so, you know, we’re, you know, we really cover a lot of distance. I can always be reached, you know via email or through my phone. So it’s gretchen.finniff@medicalsolutions.com or 513-657-7517.

Sam Schutte 29:20
Awesome. Well Gretchen was great to talk to you and learn about what you’re doing and, and I know you’re have a great passion for it. It’s great to hear that you’re having success with it. So, thanks for coming on. Tell me about it

Gretchen Finniff 29:31
I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I appreciate it, Sam.

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