When Chris Sund joined the Uniti Med leadership in 2022 the fledgling health care staffing firm was only a year old. His very first hire, and No. 1 priority, was a director of culture.
“People thought I was nuts. Like, what about HR and compliance and finance?” said Sund, who became president in April 2023.
The decision has paid off. Since then the company has grown from around 20 support staff employees to 89.
“Even more important is that we’ve increased our traveler count to where it is today, over 500% or so of revenue,” Sund said. “[In 2021] we had around 60 travelers. We have north of 300 right now.”
The company has been recognized with a slew of awards for its culture, both for its support staff and health care workers, including Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2023 Best Staffing Firms to Work For, and ClearlyRated’s 2023 Best of Staffing Talent Award.
Locally, Uniti Med was named by Baird Holm as a 2023 Best Place to Work in Omaha. The awards, administered and analyzed by Quantum Workplace, are determined using employee surveys from applying companies.
Ninety-five employees from Uniti Med participated in the study in 2023, and the results indicated that 97% of employees felt it was a great place to work. According to the Great Places to Work 2021 Global Employee Engagement Study, on average only 57% of employees at U.S.-based companies say their company is a great place to work.
Culture: It’s Personal
At the core of Uniti Med’s culture is a simple philosophy: keep it personal.
“It’s taking the time to realize that we’re people, first,” Sund said.
That means asking employees what they value.
For Nursing Client Manager Casey French, it was important to have time off to accompany his wife during doctor visits.
“My wife and I had to go through IVF to grow our family, which meant a lot of appointments throughout the week for a few months,” French said.
“When I asked to take time off to be at the appointments with my wife, they didn’t bat an eye and immediately told me to be there for my family. My work would be covered while I was away.”
Beyond being given time off, he said co-workers and team members followed up, offering support and help where they could.
“Life can throw a lot of curveballs your way, and Uniti has a way of stepping up when someone needs help,” French said. “Co-workers and managers stepping in to assist, without skipping a beat, is something I haven’t experienced before.”
For Benefits Specialist David Bontz it’s the investment in his professional development, as well as his mental and physical health.
“Such as providing a gym, having multiple wellness programs, making mental health coverage a priority in our benefits,” he said. “They even paid for personal development coaching which really helped me understand myself and utilize my strengths more effectively.”
The Chik-Fil-A of Staffing
As a company, Sund said that what Uniti Med does isn’t particularly unique, but, where it excels is the employee and client experience. He often uses the analogy of chicken nuggets from three chains: Burger King, McDonald’s, and Chick-fil-A.
In the analogy, the Burger King model relies on low overhead to bring the customer an almost unbeatable price.
“They’ll do whatever they can to minimize their overhead to pay the traveler more,” he said.
McDonald’s, while slightly more expensive, has figured out how to utilize technology. In the analogy, those companies have replaced recruiters with technology.
“Now, here’s the issue. If something goes wrong, you don’t know who to call,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that model; a lot of people love that experience.
“I compare us to Chick-fil-A. For the same chicken nuggets you’re probably going to pay more, but we feel it’s a good quality.”
The quality is in the level of support each traveling health care provider receives. From helping nurses find a home away from home on assignment to walking them through the required certifications in each state, the support team is there.
The same is true for the facilities Uniti Med employees are contracted to. For example, if a Uniti Med travel nurse is late to their shift consistently the facility can call Uniti Med and Uniti Med will work with the nurse to resolve the issue. Another example could be a missed paycheck.
Needed But Not Desired
Often, Uniti Med works with rural facilities that desperately need health care professionals in their communities.
“That’s probably the hardest thing because when people think of travel nursing they want to go somewhere cool,” he said.
The silver lining is that often those popular areas aren’t in immediate need of assistance. Or, in some cases, licensure might require a longer timeframe. This allows Uniti Med to suggest a rural hospital until a space opens up.
“These are good places,” Sund said. “So many small town hospitals, everyone knows each other’s names and when you walk in they thank you for joining the team because they need you.”
In rural areas, another factor is housing. Nationally, affordable housing is at a deficit and rural areas often don’t have short-term rentals available. This is another space where Uniti Med steps in to help its travelers.
“We’ve brokered deals with a lot of the hotels to get better rates because we want to make it as affordable as possible,” Sund said.
“In rural areas, we might need to call the hospitals and ask if they know who is renting in town. We might have to call a bank and ask if they know renters that aren’t advertising.”
Housing, rightfully so, is a major stress point. As such, Sund said he could see Uniti Med building out a department dedicated to finding and maintaining housing contracts for travelers.
“Adding those layers and continuing to grow within our company, which in turn grows new career opportunities,” he said.
Soon, statistics show that the aging population will drive demand, dictating a need for more long-term care nurses as well as general hospital nurses.
“We still have a long path to go in health care staffing,” Sund said. “We want to be well known in each of those categories.”
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