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the challenge: emerg-plus

Tanya Sarakinis, founder and chief executive officer of Emerg-Plus Healthcare Consulting Group.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Every week, we will seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue it is facing in its business.

When hospitals are short-staffed, Tanya Sarakinis helps to fill in the gaps through her temporary staffing agency for health-care workers.

But as her business has grown, to an expected $2.5-million in revenues this year, she's found it tougher to make sure her placements are delivering quality care.

The founder and chief executive officer of Burlington, Ont.-based Emerg-Plus Healthcare Consulting Group has contracts with half a dozen hospitals in southern Ontario, 30-plus full-time staff, and about 400 temporary workers, mostly nurses, on her roster.

She has just signed contracts with another half-dozen hospitals.

But as the number of placements grow, Ms. Sarakinis says she is having increasing trouble staying on top of her work force's performance.

"We're sending people to multiple sites, and I don't have direct supervision over them," she says. "You're relying on the hospital's staff to forward any problems."

Ms. Sarakinis has been placing workers for about a decade. For the first few years, she took a "no news is good news" attitude.

But that approach has stopped working.

She's only found out a nurse's performance wasn't up to snuff when she's tried to send the person back for another placement, and been rebuffed.

She has asked hospital managers to send complaints to her 48 hours after a placement ends. But she's finding they aren't writing back, and occasional problems still persist.

"It's small stuff that, if I was right there, I could catch."

The Challenge: How can Emerg-Plus's boss better monitor quality assurance?


Barry Levine, principal at Toronto-based RSM Richter

There's no feedback loop. She needs to create an automated e-mail or survey tool that goes out to the manager to follow up after a placement is completed.

It shouldn't be obtrusive and it's something that should only take a few minutes. Keep the questions short, use ranking check boxes [and]it has to be automated.

Let the managers know that the objective is to improve the quality. Tell them, if they want their needs met, there needs to be a feedback loop.

Toronto-based human resources consultant Sari Friedman

She has to set up a performance-based culture, which isn't always intuitive in the medical field.

She should set up performance criteria for her workers and say, in order to represent this company, you need to be knowledgeable and exhibit good judgment skills in these areas. You can do a test using Survey Monkey or any other online survey tool. Her top-tier nurses will get better placements.

Once they complete a placement, her staff should fill out a form that talks about what their expectations were and what they did at the hospital. If it didn't meet or exceed expectations, ask them why. It makes them more thoughtful about their own performance.

Kevin Gill, president of Winnipeg-based temp agency, Staffmax Staffing & Recruiting

First and foremost, she must adhere to and document service calls.

Do a first-day-arrival check, where she calls to make sure the person showed up. Then there should be a second-day skills and fit check to make sure that person is a good fit. Then do a weekly service call on a scheduled basis to make sure there are no issues.

It's not good enough to just check off that it's been done. Document each detail in the client's profile. Try to follow up with the person the nurse is reporting directly to, to eliminate any lapse in communication.

We use staffing software like Bullhorn to keep track of everything. You input these calls into the system, and then you can see how each nurse's performance has been and what specific hospitals had to say about staff.


Create a survey for clients

Instead of asking clients to report an issue, send out a quick survey immediately after a placement. Use check boxes and multiple choice to make the process less time-consuming.

Reward performance

Create a performance-based culture, where better-performing nurses get better shifts.

Remove layers

Follow up with the person the placement directly reports to, rather than waiting for a more senior manager to respond.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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