Creativity is the key to your staffing woes

Subcontract, find ways to justify positions

When budgets are tight, the amount of staff available to complete patient education projects often dwindles. In addition, patient education managers frequently have extra duties added to their job description as well. As a result, it is important to look creatively at staffing problems, says Kathy Ordelt, RN, patient and family education coordinator at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

"I have people that I work with on an as-needed basis, and I contract with different companies on jobs that we had done in-house with a fulltime staff person," Ordelt explains.

When there isn’t enough staff to get the work done, look for people both within your health care organization as well as outside organizations to work with on an as-needed basis. It is often cheaper to subcontract projects than to hire employees. Ordelt keeps a list of companies as well as staff within her health care system that she can use when they are needed to get a job done.

When employees are essential, it’s important to justify the need for their position, says Mary Szczepanik, MS, BSN, RN, manager of cancer education, support, and outreach at OhioHealth Cancer Services in Columbus. The most difficult task is to add new positions, she says.

"I’ve been most successful in adding new positions by starting with a part-time position, which is funded by grant dollars. Then, as the program grows, I’ve been able to justify the need and convert the position to my budget as a permanent position," says Szczepanik.

Currently, about 40% of the part-time positions in cancer education are funded by grant dollars. Such staffing requires knowledge about what grants are available and how to write them, says Szczepanik. It also requires dedicated employees and lots of work on team building, she says. (Patient Education Management will cover strategies for obtaining grant dollars in the July issue.)

Szczepanik recently added a fulltime employee based on declining satisfaction scores in symptom management and emotional and spiritual support. Data was collected for six months and then combined with the systemwide patient satisfaction scores to prove the need for the position.

In this way, Szczepanik was able to justify transferring a vacant position in another area of cancer services to cancer education, support, and outreach. The funds for the position now are part of her budget.


For more information on creative staffing positions, contact:

  • Kathy Ordelt, RN, Patient and Family Education Coordinator, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 1001 Johnson Ferry Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30342. Telephone: (404) 929-8641. E-mail:
  • Mary Szczepanik, MS, BSN, RN, Manager, Cancer Education, Support, and Outreach, OhioHealth Cancer Services, 3535 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, OH 43214. Telephone: (614) 566-3280. E-mail: