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Clinical Corner: Protect Yourself from HIPAA Violations

HIPAA - Clinical Corner: Protect Yourself from HIPAA Violations
Protect yourself — and your patients — from HIPAA violations!

By Laura Friend, Clinical Nurse Manager at Medical Solutions 

I remember a nurse practitioner coming up to me one evening while I was working and saying, “Hey, don’t discharge room 11 yet, I have to print the prescription for her antibiotic.” I replied that I had already sent her home with it. The NP corrected me, saying it was room 10 that I had already sent home. As it turns out, she put the discharge papers and prescription for the patient in room 10 outside of room 11, and the two patients had similar diagnoses both warranting antibiotics. In a hurry, I didn’t double-check the papers with the patient’s name; the discharge teaching and prescription made sense. My heart sunk: This was a HIPPA violation.

As nurses know, HIPAA is short for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a privacy law that protects patients’ medical records and health information. A HIPAA violation occurs when standards are not met and policy is not followed, and it can happen in many ways. It can result in fines, prison time, and/or loss of a health care provider’s license. Facilities offer their employees training opportunities regarding HIPAA in many different forms, multiple times per year. Health care professionals should know the basics of HIPAA — locking computer screens, not discussing health care information with others, and properly disposing of medical records. There are additional ways to protect yourself that may not be as widely known, such as:

  • Do not look up patient records unless you are directly involved in their care. It is a violation to look up a celebrity, VIP, or “unusual case” that may be at your facility. It doesn’t matter if you are curious, spiteful, or even trying to be helpful to a friend or family member — unless you are directly caring for that patient, stay out of their medical record. 
  • No social media posting! You may think that it’s okay to post a picture of an injury or wound if you don’t post the patient’s name. However, people may be able to identify the patient by tattoos or other markings. It’s also possible to violate HIPAA just by posting a vague status about someone for whom you cared. Maybe someone knows you work in trauma and later reads about a shooting that went to your facility. It wouldn’t be too hard to put two and two together. Finally, it is a HIPAA violation to post a selfie with patient, even if you are friends, have built a great rapport, or they give you permission. A good rule of thumb is to keep anything related to patient care off your social media accounts.
  • Be careful discussing medical information with a patient when they have visitors unless they give you permission. You should always ask the patient if they are comfortable discussing their health with others in the room. If they say no, politely escort the guests out before disclosing anything regarding their care.
  • Lastly, be careful when gossiping. We all know nursing is stressful and, at times, even humorous. But please remember that hospitals are busy places — there are always patients, family members, or other employees around. Be mindful of who may be within earshot when you’re talking about patients, no matter what you are saying.

It is crucial to keep patient information private and secure. Complete and stay up do date on annual training. Pay attention to who is around when you’re discussing a patient and do not post about patient care on social media. If you have any questions or concerns regarding HIPAA, please reach out to the Clinical Team at Medical Solutions and know that we are always here to help!

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3 Healthcare Candidate Screening Best Practices

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Finding the right healthcare professional takes time. Teaming up with a healthcare staffing partner can help shorten your time-to-hire without sacrificing quality.

It’s no secret that great patient care starts with excellent healthcare professionals. That’s why a thorough employment screening process is essential to your facility’s hiring success. Consider the following best practices in healthcare employment screening:

Verify employment history and credentials: Performing a background check on each healthcare candidate is a standard step in the hiring process. After all, hiring decisions in both the acute and post-acute care sector can have serious consequences. For example, a healthcare candidate who provides false credentials or has a past negative employment event can risk the safety of your staff and patients, damage your organization’s reputation, and expose your facility to legal complications. For this very reason, many healthcare employers consult with a third party, such as a staffing agency, to help them avoid such hiring mistakes. In fact, most healthcare staffing agencies run background checks on their contingent clinicians before sending a candidate’s profile for consideration. However, not all staffing agencies follow the same screening protocols. So, before you partner with a healthcare staffing agency, find out what their screening process entails.

Maintain compliance: Healthcare organizations must also navigate the maze of healthcare compliance management. Failure to comply with state and federal regulations can result in hefty legal fees and fines. That why it’s a good idea to partner with a staffing company that can conduct initial and ongoing compliance checks for your facility.

Keep the candidate experience in mind: If an HR professional at your facility is manually verifying a candidate’s job history, educational background, professional credentials, while also reviewing several state and federal regulations, it can take weeks to clear an individual for hire. In that time, the healthcare candidate could potentially find and accept a job from a competitor. With today’s tight labor market, the healthcare organization with the most efficient hiring process wins the best and brightest candidates. Fortunately, a healthcare staffing agency can help accelerate your time-to-fill rate by taking on these administrative duties for you.  

Did you know that Medical Solutions provides healthcare facilities and organizations with a comprehensive employment screening process? Contact us today to learn more!   

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Exhausted Nurse in Viral Picture is Celebrated

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Last July, labor and delivery nurse Caty Nixon had an emotional moment after working more than 50 hours in four days — during which she delivered a stillborn baby. She was eating dinner at her twin sister Laura McIntyre’s house when the weight and exhaustion of it all hit her like a ton of bricks.

On October 10, McIntyre posted a photo of that emotional July moment to Facebook with a tribute to her sister’s hard work and selfless nature. The post quickly went viral and to date has been shared more than 133,000 times. In her post McIntyre wrote:

“she’s gonna kill me for this pic, but can we just give it up for nurses for a minute?

caty just wrapped up her fourth shift in a row. that’s around 53+ hours in four days. that’s not including the 1.5 hours she’s in the car each day. she usually doesn’t get a chance to eat lunch or even drink much water. (& she has to dress like a blueberry.. i mean, come on). she is so good at what she does that she often forgets how to take care of herself while she’s taking care of her patients.

this pic is from a night back in july where she came to my house after a particularly hard day. she delivered a stillborn. have you guys ever really thought about what a labor & delivery nurse sees? they see great joy in smooth deliveries & healthy moms & babies. they see panic & anxiety when a new mom is scared. they see fear when a stat c-section is called. they see peace when the mom has support from her family – bc not all new moms do. they see teenagers giving birth. they see an addicted mom give birth to a baby who is withdrawing. they see cps come. they see funeral homes come. did you know that they have to make arrangements for the funeral home to come pick up the baby? i didn’t either.

caty (& all other nurses) – you are SPECIAL. you bless your patients & their families more than you will ever know. thank you for all that you do.” 

Wow, does that speak to the magic and importance of what nurses everywhere do! A lot of nurses saw themselves in this and so did many families whose lives have been deeply impacted by nurse service and excellence.    

“Any kind of fetal loss is hard, especially for the family, but also for the staff,” Nixon told TIME magazine in October 2019. “I think it’s the worst thing that a family could go through.”

However, Nixon was also quick to note that her job is usually quite happy despite the long hours, but that the moment her sister captured was just “after a long, heartbreaking day.”

Nixon and McIntyre were both surprised by the viral reaction that provoked such an outpouring of love and support from fellow nurses and other healthcare professionals, former patients, and even complete strangers. Nixon was even celebrated this week on “Good Morning America” — check out this video where her sister and husband help surprise her:

I feel like this honor is symbolically for every single RN, allied health professional, and long-term care health professional — because all of you work tirelessly with rare bathroom and hydration breaks, among other stresses, to provide incredible patient care.  

In fact, Nixon told TIME that’s she touched by the reaction and hopes her viral moment helps people realize that she’s not alone in her dedication.   

“There are caregivers everywhere. Not just nurses, but firefighters and first responders and parents,” Nixon told TIME. “There are people everywhere that give love.”

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Congrats to August 2019’s Traveler of the Month and Rising Star!

Janae C RS
Congrats to August 2019 Traveler of the Month, Susan D., and Rising Star, Janae C. (pictured)!

Many thanks and congrats to the August 2019 Traveler of the Month, Susan D., and also our Rising Star winner, Janae C.!

Traveler of the Month Susan is an OB Tech who’s currently on assignment in Flint, Michigan.

Since February 2019, Susan’s been working with Career Consultant Anna Howell, who had great things to say about her.

“I love Susan’s bubbly personality — she is always happy when I speak with her. She has a great work ethic, is a hard worker, and a team player,” says Anna.

Thank you for your great work, Susan, and congrats!

Rising Star Janae is a critical care ICU RN who’s currently assignment in Houston, Texas. She’s been in nursing for about six years, traveling for about six months, and she works with Career Consultant Billy Malcom.  

While her current assignment is her first outside of her home state, so she doesn’t have a favorite location yet, Janae says she is “enjoying a routine that is outside of my normality.”

One of Janae’s unique abilities is resilience, which she says has shaped her as person.

“My parents taught me to never give up and if I start something I have to see it through to the end,” she says. “This may not seem very unique, but because of this quality, I am who I am today and it’s what I attribute most of my blessings to.” 

Janae decided to try travel nursing to push herself and further develop her skill set.

“I find that the best thing about travel nursing is applying my skills that I’ve learned so far in new situations and proving myself competent,” she says. “I felt that I’d obtained fairly enough knowledge to be an efficient travel nurse and it was time to push and challenge myself!”

Janae shared some really great traveler tips — for new or aspiring traveling healthcare professionals.

“Be yourself! Don’t change how you nurse because you are somewhere new. If you’re a great nurse at one place, continue to be that same nurse someplace else. Your effort will speak for itself! Second, being able to adapt and being open to change is important. My desire for new challenges makes traveling exciting for me no matter the circumstances. Make sure you know exactly why you decided to travel and let that desire be your driving force to be the best travel nurse you can be.”

Thank you for your incredible dedication to patient care and awesome advice, Janae!

Congratulations again to the Medical Solutions August 2019 Traveler of the Month and Rising Star. Susan and Janae, we are so thankful to each of you for your incredible work!

Could you be the next Medical Solutions Traveler of the Month or Rising Star? Travelers who receive a perfect hospital evaluation are eligible to win these monthly awards — with Rising Star going to newer Medical Solutions Travelers. Click here to learn more and to see if you could be the next winner of a $100 Visa or Amazon gift card as recognition for a job well done!

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Top Tips for Hiring in Long-term Care

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Say hello to experienced candidates with these helpful hiring practices.

Thanks to the nationwide nursing shortage, it takes substantial time and effort to find, recruit, and hire the ideal healthcare professional, especially in the post-acute care sector. With that in mind, our team at Medical Solutions would like to offer the following advice for hiring in this special niche.

Interview with cultural fit in mind: It’s no secret that providing long-term care requires a certain temperament and skill set. These clinicians mostly care for an elderly population, so that means the job calls for individuals who are familiar with end of life care, have the ability to handle grief and loss, and can manage the job’s often demanding physical needs. To address this, you should have an extensive behavioral interview process that goes through certain scenarios. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask the same questions multiple times throughout the interview to gauge how well they can handle repetition. Clearly, if the interviewee becomes easily frustrated answering the same questions, he or she might not be the right fit. After all, the individual may easily have to repeat instructions to an Alzheimer’s patient.

Set up a recruitment pipeline: Partner with a university or nursing school that can help you find and educate students and new grads on the benefits of working in the senior care space. If a local nursing school partnership isn’t an option, you can also enlist the services of a staffing agency. For example, Medical Solutions has recruiting experts on board who can help you quickly find the post-acute clinicians you need.

Don’t forget about employer branding and the candidate experience: In today’s digital world, it’s no longer enough to simply post a job and let the applications roll in. You need to find out what sets your healthcare organization apart and advertise that in the right spaces. For example, social media ads are one such way to attract and direct job seekers to your healthcare organization’s website. Then, make sure these candidates can easily and quickly apply for your open positions. If your online application process is too difficult, they’ll stop half-way through and leave your site.

Did we miss any other pro tips for hiring in long-term care? Let us know what works for you and your healthcare organization in the comments below!  

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4 Habits of a Successful Interim Nurse Leader

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Interim nurse leaders must act quickly and decisively, boost confidence among staff, and plan purposefully.

Your long-term care facility needs an interim nurse leader. Now what? As you begin your search, you should know that an interim nurse leader is not the same as a permanent nurse leader, even though they’ll have similar skills. An interim nurse leader must act quickly and decisively, boost confidence among staff, and plan purposefully. When they do, the permanent nurse leader can seamlessly step in with a strategy already in place. With that in mind, you should consider the following four habits all successful interim nurse leaders have in common:

Builds relationships: Whether permanent or temporary, great leaders know that connecting with people is at the heart of what they do. When you start looking for an interim nurse leader, keep in mind you need someone with great people skills. A temporary leader must be able to bring people together and move forward in times of uncertainty.

Understands context: A successful temporary nurse leader must also understand the nature of their role. Sometimes, an interim position can mean “hold-down-the-fort-until-we-find-the-right-person” while other times, the temporary role could become permanent. Either way, an interim leader must be able to read between the lines and adopt the right attitude for the job.   

Thinks strategically: Interim nurse leaders have the opportunity to improve an organization’s overall productivity, but they must be strategic. An experienced interim leader knows which changes need to happen today and which ones can wait. After all, it’s part of his or her job to establish short-term goals for the team and recommend a long-term strategy for the future, permanent nurse leader.

Acts decisively: Since their roles are only temporary, skilled interim nurse leaders must hit the ground running. And that’s because nothing stops productivity in its tracks like indecisiveness. A successful interim nurse leader will make decisions as if the job were already theirs, and then explain the rationale behind those decisions to their staff. In the process, they’ll bring stability to the team during a transitional time.

Are you looking for an interim nurse leader? Medical Solutions helps post-acute care facilities fill leadership vacancies with the right interim leaders. Contact us today to learn more!

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Clinical Corner: Working in Various Types of Long-term Care Nursing Facilities

Long-term care
It may take different levels of skills and experience to work in various types of long-term care nursing facilities — but it takes a big heart across the board to serve long-term care patients!

By Melissa Nguyen, Clinical Nurse Manager at Medical Solutions

While visiting my grandmother in a long-term care facility, I saw a handwritten sign on the employee lounge door that caught my attention. It read: “Our residents do not live in our workplace, we work in their home.”

This simple yet meaningful message really changed the way I looked at long-term care nursing — especially now that my grandmother was a resident. Most of her fellow residents were spending their final days, months, or years with healthcare professionals who were understaffed and underappreciated. Some residents never had visitors, some had family members regularly dissatisfied with their loved one’s care, and some wanted nothing more than for someone to just hold their hand. Each resident had a unique story and their nurses played an essential role in that story.   

Prior to working as a Clinical Nurse Manager at Medical Solutions, I did not realize there were differences in the types of long-term care facilities. Now I know there are skilled nursing facilities (SNF), long-term care (LTC), long-term acute care (LTAC), and assisted living facilities (ALF).

So, how are these various long-term care facilities different? And what type of experience should a travel nurse or allied health traveler have to successfully work in each specific type of long-term care facility? Read the following examples to learn more about the variety in long-term care facilities and what skills you’d need to succeed in each setting.

Mrs. Smith’s Case

Mrs. Smith is a 76-year-old recently diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Until recently, she’s been able to bathe and dress, make herself meals, and take all her prescribed medications as directed. Over the past few weeks, her daughter noticed Mrs. Smith forgetting to take her blood pressure medication and frequently skipping meals. 

Assisted living facility (ALF)

Mrs. Smith qualifies for assisted living because she is unable to safely live alone but does not require heavy nursing needs (such as wound care or IV medications). Assisted living will help Mrs. Smith stay on track with her medications and provide meal services every day.

Travelers — whether RNs or allied health professionals — interested in working in an assisted living facility would need basic knowledge of medication administration, the ability to obtain vital signs, and the ability to obtain labs. 

Skilled nursing facility (SNF)/long-term care (LTC)

Several months after moving to an assisted living facility, Mrs. Smith falls and breaks her leg. She goes to the hospital where she has surgery, however, she now needs assistance with dressing changes for her post-surgical site as well as rehabilitative services. She is discharged to a skilled nursing facility (SNF), where nursing staff will administer her medication and complete her dressing changes. She will also receive physical therapy and occupational therapy services. After several weeks, Mrs. Smith’s surgical wound has healed and she has completed her physical and occupational therapy, but she still requires assistance with mobility and taking medications. She is now transferred to the long-term care (LTC) side of the facility where nurses will help bathe and dress her, administer medications, and transfer her safely in and out of bed.

Travel nurses interested in working in SNF/LTC must have experience working in SNF/LTC with higher ratios than what is normally seen in acute care. It is not uncommon for an SNF/LTC RN to have a 1:20 ratio or higher. Nurses who have only worked acute care are generally not successful as they may struggle with higher ratios than what they are used to. 

Mr. Jones’ Case

Mr. Jones is a 50-year-old man who was admitted to the hospital after a 1,000-pound tree fell and crushed him. He suffered multiple broken bones, a collapsed lung, and a bruised heart. After several days, he stabilized, but required a tracheostomy and remained on the ventilator. 

Long-term acute care (LTAC) ICU

Mr. Jones’s injuries were healing, however, he needed to be weaned off the ventilator. He still needed intensive therapy to build strength and to learn how to breathe, talk, and walk again. He is transferred to a long-term acute care ICU where he begins the process of weaning off the ventilator.

Travel nurses interested in working in LTAC ICU must have experience working specifically in LTAC ICUs. Nurses who have only worked in an acute care hospital ICU are generally not successful as they struggle with the ratios in LTAC ICU (which often carry high acuity patient ratios of four or more). Nurses who have worked stepdown in an acute care facility may be considered if they have ventilator experience. Nurses who have only worked LTC would not be considered good candidates for this position as they do not have experience with acuity levels of LTAC patients. 

Long-term acute care (LTAC) med-surg

Mr. Jones has been successfully weaned off the ventilator and moved to the LTAC med-surg floor. He still requires IV antibiotics and frequent dressing changes for his wounds. In addition, he will continue intensive therapy learning how to walk, talk, and eat on his own. Travel nurses interested in working LTAC med-surg must have either worked in an LTAC med-surg unit in the past or have worked stepdown/tele, med-surg or float pool in an acute care facility and have experience taking ratios of at least 1:5. Nurses who have only worked LTC would not be considered good candidates for this position as they do not have experience with acuity levels of LTAC patients.

As the United States population ages, there will be a higher demand for long-term care and long-term acute care nurses. It is a specialty that comes with its set of challenges, but that equally has its rewards. For many residents, it is their final journey in life and as nurses, we can make a lasting impact on how their final chapter ends. As Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Save the Date for Open Enrollment 2019!

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Save the Date for Medical Solutions open enrollment, October 27-November 9!

The fall season means that many beloved favorites come back around: boots and sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, football, TV premieres, and everybody’s favorite — open enrollment for benefits!

In that spirit, please save the date for Medical Solutions open enrollment, which will run October 27-November 9, 2019.

During this open enrollment, you can make any changes you’d like to your elections for the 2020 plan year.

You do not need to take any action right now — this is just a heads up that open enrollment is coming soon. Current Medical Travelers will receive email communications with more information about next steps closer to the beginning of open enrollment.

It really is a great time of year to empower yourself to make any necessary changes to your benefits elections. In the meantime, click here to explore Medical Solutions’ benefits, or, feel free to ask your Career Consultant any questions!

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Four Practical Tips For Hiring Seasonal Healthcare Staff

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Flu season is upon us. For many healthcare leaders, this time of year can be unpredictable — patient volume can soar at a moment’s notice, and some of your perm staff may unexpectedly become sick. And while last year’s flu season was moderate in its severity, it lasted for a recording-breaking 21 weeks, according to the CDC.

To prepare for this year’s flu season, you’ll want to make strategic use of Travel Nurses and other temporary healthcare professionals. On that note, you should consider the following four practical tips for hiring seasonal healthcare staff:

Plan ahead: A last-minute approach to healthcare staffing can leave you short-staffed during the busiest time of the year, and that can be a costly mistake. To avoid these pitfalls, you should create your staffing strategy well ahead of the peak flu season. We recommend you start looking for temporary help in late September or early October. Hiring early also gives your temporary staff enough time to learn the ropes at your facility.

Team up with a staffing partner: A staffing firm, like Medical Solutions, can save you valuable time and resources by working on your behalf to pre-screen, interview, and recommend qualified candidates for your open positions. With their team of experts, you’ll be able to find the right healthcare professional who fits your organization’s culture. And when next year’s flu season rolls around, that same staffing partner can help you forecast your facility’s staffing needs using last year’s data.

Remember the candidate experience: Just like with permanent employees, competition is fierce when it comes to securing the best contingent clinical talent. If you make your candidates jump through hoops or complete several rounds of interviews, they’ll go elsewhere. A staffing partner can keep your hiring process short while simultaneously maintaining your high standards during a busy time.

Set expectations: This might seem obvious, but the Traveler should know how long the assignment will be. If there’s a chance for the temporary position to become a perm one, you should also let the candidate know ahead of time. Sometimes, a healthcare professional is merely traveling to test the waters at different facilities. If they know this temporary gig could become permanent, they might be more interested in applying in the first place.

For more information about how you can help prepare your facility for this year’s upcoming flu season, please contact Medical Solutions.

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Congrats to July 2019’s Traveler of the Month and Rising Star!

Traveler of the Month LaShawnda
Congrats to July 2019’s Traveler of the Month, LaShawnda B. (pictured) and Rising Star winner, Heidi N.!

Many thanks and congrats to the July 2019 Traveler of the Month, LaShawnda B., and also our Rising Star winner, Heidi N.!

Traveler of the Month LaShawnda is an RN specializing in Long-term Care Management who’s currently on assignment in Kernersville, North Carolina. She’s been in nursing for 14 years and has been traveling for four years. LaShawnda works with Career Consultant Sheila Groff.

Traveler of the Month Angel
LaShawnda travels with her adorable Maltese-Pomeranian mix, Angel.

“Picking my favorite location is not even possible, so I will say, my most rewarding assignment was in St. Louis, Missouri,” says LaShawnda. “The facility was very challenging and the staff was completely burned out. I wanted to run, but I had a talk with myself. I regrouped and realized this was not just a work ‘assignment.’ I vowed to come into that facility happy, non-judgmental, and pledged to go to brink to do my best. Long story short, I met some awesome people — residents and employees. I would like to think, my dedication and commitment renewed theirs. Facility morale was at an all-time high. The staff that was reportedly ‘not teachable’ were finally understanding what continuity of care meant. I extended too many times to remember. The hardest part, like every assignment, was saying, goodbye.”

Wow, that just goes to show how powerful positivity can be!

LaShawnda travels with Angel, her nine-year-old Maltese/Pomeranian mix pup. Uniquely, she says she hates days off, especially during the week, because unless she’s on vacation they give her anxiety!  

“The best things about Travel Nursing are the constant changing and meeting new people, conquering new challenges, and showing the world your gift,” says LaShawnda.

She shared some powerful advice for new or aspiring Travelers:

1. “Always keep an open mind.”

2. “There is no such thing as ‘that’s not my job’ when it comes to residents.”

3. “Never plan to leave on time.” 

4. “Always focus on making a difference.”

Thanks so much for your great advice and for making such a positive difference in the world, LaShawnda!

Rising Star Heidi is a PCU/Tele RN who most recently finished an assignment in Michigan.  

For about a year, Heidi’s been working with Career Consultant Stephanie Balkovec, who had only amazing things to say about her.

“Heidi is a wonderful, positive, resilient young woman who knocked it out of the park on her first assignment, despite it being a tough start. The facility raved about her flexibility and clinical assets,” says Stephanie.

Thank you for your incredible work ethic, Heidi!

Congratulations again to the Medical Solutions July 2019 Traveler of the Month and Rising Star. LaShawnda and Heidi, we are so thankful to you both for your incredible work!

Could you be the next Medical Solutions Traveler of the Month or Rising Star? Travelers who receive a perfect hospital evaluation are eligible to win these monthly awards — with Rising Star going to newer Medical Solutions Travelers. Click here to learn more and to see if you could be the next winner of a $100 Visa or Amazon gift card as recognition for a job well done!