By Cynthia Kinnas, National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO); Michele Sacco, The Joint Commission; and Sarah Wengert, Medical Solutions

The ultimate objective for any healthcare staffing firm should be to provide a framework of quality, safety, benchmarking, and performance improvement. To that end, The Joint Commission’s vision statement is a great standard for firms to follow: “All people always experience the safest, highest quality, best-value health care across all settings.”

But how do you achieve — and maintain — the critical operational aspects of your healthcare staffing firm on that level, especially with the other responsibilities of your business?

While there is no magic formula for success, NATHO membership and Joint Commission Certification are integral steps your company can take to strengthen operational processes, brand, and reputation for quality and value within the industry.

These 10 tips are essential building blocks to provide quality and value to your firm’s client hospitals.

1. Get Certified, Get Involved, and Always Act Ethically

Your company’s conduct — and client perception of it — is everything when trying to attract business. Attaining Joint Commission certification and becoming a NATHO member, which is known for promoting ethical practices in healthcare staffing is essential. Aligning yourself with industry leaders synonymous with quality and integrity is imperative for your operations and reputation.

2. Thoroughly Assess Provider Competency

The most crucial step to providing value to hospitals is employing top- quality healthcare providers who’ll represent your firm well and ensure clinical quality. At a minimum, travelers should be stringently reviewed by: resume, background, references, skills, licensure/certification, health requirements, education. Emphasize the importance of credentialing — which protects patients and hospitals — including checks of OIG, NPDB, state boards, formal education verification and work history verification.

3. Avoid Risk Throughout Assignments

Good healthcare staffing firms know their job isn’t done when a traveler arrives on assignment. It’s important to ask: What resources and support can you provide your travelers to help maintain clinical competency? One great approach is to employ internal clinical staff and supervisors, making them available as a resource for your travelers and clients. Besides being advantageous for travelers and cementing your firm as one that will always support and assist, hospitals will greatly appreciate that your firm possesses clinical experts. Conducting ongoing performance evaluations is another surefire way to measure and maintain quality.

4. Offer Effective Training Programs and Resources

Providing travelers with proper training and continued resources can have a big impact in the reduction of sentinel events and other negative outcomes. Consider offering online modules and testing regarding HIPAA, OSHA, workplace safety/violence/harassment, Joint Commission requirements, clinical concerns, and other important categories that can ensure quality and maintain ethical performance.

5. Monitor Changes in Regulatory Agencies; Federal and State Laws

Compliance is important to your clients. Maintain updated policies and procedures on a company-wide level to reflect revised federal and state laws, regulatory agency requirements, and Joint Commission standards.

6. Successfully Navigate Client Contracts

When entering into a contract with a client hospital performing due diligence is key to eliminating risk while also building optimum relationships with your clients. Be sure to educate yourself on key terms and stay abreast of industry trends. Protect yourself by reviewing contracts carefully to eliminate the possibility of your firm accepting undue risk.

7. Emphasize HIPAA Compliance

It’s just as essential for your firm to be HIPAA-compliant as it is for your travelers. Offer training and maintain stringent standards for internal access to individual information and protection of sensitive information, whether it is medical or personal identification.

8. Market Your Company’s Quality Strengths

In addition to fostering improved patient outcomes, utilizing a contingent workforce has been shown to save hospitals money in the long run, by limiting expenses such as overtime and turnover costs. But what makes your firm stand out? Quality is an excellent differentiating value, and one to which hospitals will respond.

9. Make Informed Business Decisions

Know exactly where your firm stands—and why—when making important decisions regarding initiatives, policies, and scope. Use key performance indicators across departments and positions to track and report productivity. Metrics keep a firm focused, can provide evidence of value, and protect financial viability.

10. Practice Self-Assessment

Regularly examine your firm’s operations. A thorough checklist is a helpful way to maintain your firm’s quality standards and strategic follow-through. Joint Commission standards provide a rigorous framework that helps you measure and improve your internal procedures and processes. This gives you confidence that you’re following the best industry practices available.


Quality and safety are paramount for healthcare staffing firms based on who we ultimately serve — patients who have entrusted their care to our clients. Our work comes with a great responsibility and accountability towards the delivery of outstanding healthcare in our communities nationwide.

As you take heed of these 10 tips, think about how you can integrate them into your culture with ongoing training not only of your temporary talent, but also your internal staff. Everyone agrees quality and safety are important, but to effectively uphold these areas you need to make an investment in relevant and ongoing training of your staff. This is especially critical now in a time when there are many changes taking place based on healthcare reform. Take advantage of all of the industry resources possible. Be informed of the regulations and dynamics in our industry and schedule regular sessions to educate your staff and hold them accountable to your standards on consistent basis. This investment is a key part of the service we offer to our clients.

NATHO and The Joint Commission are two valuable resources that can help you meet these challenges. NATHO provides a wonderful forum for networking with industry colleagues, many of whom have great expertise. They are willing to share this in order to continually improve the service we collectively provide. NATHO also offers educational webinars and other resources to help you stay informed and on top of compliance and contractual issues. The Joint Commission offers an extremely effective way to objectively and regularly assess your firm’s overall compliance with quality and safety standards. Throughout the certification process, The Joint Commission works collaboratively with your firm in order to help it implement best practices and rise to its highest potential.

Finally, ask your key stakeholders (internal employees, talent, and clients) for feedback. Anonymous surveys that can assess your Net Promoter Score can be a wonderful tool to measure your progress and help you determine specifically where to focus performance improvement initiatives. |

Cynthia Kinnas, founding board member and current president of NATHO, Executive Vice President of Randstad Healthcare.

NATHO is a non-profit association of travel healthcare organizations, founded in 2008 to promote ethical business practices in the travel healthcare industry, setting the gold standard for conduct that is aligned among member agencies on behalf of travel healthcare candidates and clients.

Benefits of joining NATHO:

  • Industry benchmarking and statistics
  • Educational webinars
  • Public relations
  • Networking
  • Federal and state legislative issues
  • Ethics and arbitration guidelines
  • Credentialing standards plus standards of practice
  • Group Purchasing

Sarah Wengert, healthcare staffing industry expert with Medical Solutions, the nation’s third-largest travel nurse staffing agency, and an industry leader in quality.

Michele Sacco, Executive Director, Health Care Staffing Services Certification at the Joint Commission.

The Joint Commission’s Health Care Staffing Services (HCSS) Certification Program provides an independent, comprehensive evaluation of a staffing firm’s process to provide qualified and competent staffing services.

Benefits of achieving Health Care Staffing Services Certification:

  • Establishes criteria for providing appropriate and competent staffing services
  • Provides a management framework for quality, safety and improving performance
  • Enhances contracting opportunities
  • Provides a competitive edge in the marketplace
  • Can be a tool to attract and retain quality personnel

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.