Nursing staffing agency fulfilling formerly untapped market need
10/18/2013 - The Exponent Telegram. By Erin Beck.
BRIDGEPORT - A U.S. Nursing Network is helping relieve shortages at area hospitals.
When Jennifer Arbonaise opened her nursing staffing agency in Bridgeport, the nursing shortage hadn’t fully hit West Virginia yet, she said.
But when it hit shortly thereafter, it hit big.
As demand has continued to grow, the Bridgeport business has rapidly expanded.
Arbonaise, who is originally from Bridgeport, first opened U.S. Nursing Network in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2001.
She had moved to North Carolina for a post-graduate fellowship in hospital administration at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Staffing agencies were common there, while West Virginia was an untapped market, according to Arbonaise.
She recognized an opportunity and decided to put a satellite office in Bridgeport in 2002.
“It was kind of a foreign concept,” she said. “A lot of the people that were running the nursing homes and hospitals at the time — they didn’t want to concede to using extra support staff. They wanted to hire in-house.”
But pretty soon, they weren’t seeing much of a choice.
Arbonaise took the business out of North Carolina and focused solely on West Virginia in 2006.
The satellite office originally had two staff members who would match nurses with local hospitals.
Now, 12 office staff members are matching around 100 clinical staff members with about 20 facilities in the area.
The company also includes a CNA training course.
“We found that we really couldn’t even recruit enough nurses,” Arbonaise said.
Because nurses are so in need, many are signing on at U.S. Nursing Network for additional income, according to Arbonaise.
Arbonaise estimated that 40 percent of her nurses have other jobs.
Nurses sign on for different reasons, such as flexible working hours, according to Meredith Smith, a staffing coordinator.
“They do get to choose their own schedules,” she said. “They get to decide what shifts and days they want ... They can pick up around what life throws their way.”
Meanwhile, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can temporarily increase staff size when needed and don’t have to worry about adequate staffing when their own nurses call off work.
“We meet their needs,” Smith said. “They call us to be their back-up.”
While employers were hesitant at first, they’ve learned to recognize the benefit, according to Arbonaise.
For instance, some employers came around to the idea when they found out U.S. Nursing Network covers its clinical staff under the company’s own malpractice and general liability insurance.
The company also pays workers’ compensation and other benefits for its clinical staff members.
“We do provide a full service,” Arbonaise said. “When we give someone a rate, our rate is all-inclusive.”
The concept benefits both nurses and companies that contract with them.
“They’re able to supplement their income,” she said. “We’re able to fulfill the needs of other facilities.”