What It's Like to Run a Medical Staffing Company - Interview with Triage Staffing CEO

In Spring of 2020, the Knack Team launched the “Nominate a Nurse” initiative, sending Knack Packs to nurses who are frontline workers.  We worked to get the word out to as many nurses as possible about the program, and Triage Staffing jumped in to share the program with their travel nurses.  We really appreciated the support the Triage Staffing team provided, and today, we’re sharing a fascinating interview with John Maaske, the CEO and founder of Triage Staffing.

Best backpack for traveling nurses

In this interview, John shares business insights (Triage Staffing had a packed year in 2020), as well as fascinating information about the medical staffing world.  He discusses going fully remote within 72 hours, staffing New York hospitals during Spring of 2020 and acquiring and merging a company into Triage Staffing.  If you love reading about how businesses adapted and thrived in 2020, then this is the post for you!

Interview with Triage Staffing CEO, John Maaske

Note on Medical Staffing Companies

Before we get to the good stuff, it’s pretty helpful to understand how medical staffing companies work. Triage Staffing provides medical staff for clients (rehab facilities, hospitals, labs, etc) on a short-term or contract basis.  Within the industry, these medical staff are called “travelers.”

Founding Triage Staffing: Identifying a Huge Market Gap

In 2006, John had been in the healthcare staffing industry for 5 years – and he saw an opportunity to shake things up.  “Staffing companies were going very ‘corporate,’ trying to offer the exact same services to every client.  This wasn’t working, because every medical facility (from doctors’ offices to hospitals to labs), runs differently and has a different need.  Clients were frustrated. To make things worse, the travelers also found it hard to do their job within the rigid system.”

Seeing this opportunity, John co-founded Triage Staffing, with Tyler Pieper.  “We started in 2006 with a radiology staffing focus,” he shares. “Then within months, we had added medical labs and rehab therapy. Then 3 years later, we started our travel nurse division.”

Photo of Triage Staffing Building - Medical Staffing Company

Creating a customizable service sounds good on a website, but implementing it can be quite difficult. 

“We’re able to offer custom solutions because we focus on the client situation, and we work to really understand the site and its needs,” he shares.  “Other companies get in trouble because they try to force the client’s needs to fit into their current offering.  It just doesn’t work.”  

The Importance of Candor: “We don’t sugarcoat things.”

Being in the staffing industry adds an additional layer of complexity, as Triage Staffing provides support and services to both travelers and their clients.  

“We are very candid and upfront with travelers,” explains John.  “In the staffing industry, travelers often aren’t told the full story, in the hopes that they’ll sign on for a position.  We don’t sugarcoat things, but we’re not jerks about it. We always deliver things in a respectful way, while also making sure everyone is up-to-speed.”

Triage Staffing Team Entering Building

How COVID-19 Impacted Triage Staffing

COVID-19 has disrupted the day-to-day functioning of every business, and the medical world saw huge changes within days.  Resources and staff had to be reallocated to provide ICU support, and medical laboratories were forced to quickly scale to complete time-sensitive COVID-19 tests.

“The pandemic hit and the brakes were put on a lot of travel positions in our industry,” shares John.  “There was almost an immediate need for more staff to fill crisis positions.  Our internal operations structure and org chart was designed to handle both travel positions and crisis roles, and almost overnight all of the client needs shifted to crisis positions.”

Triage Staffing Team Photo Collage - Medical Staffing

Going Fully Remote within 72 Hours

In the midst of these huge changes, the 135 staff members at company HQ also needed to become a fully functional remote team.  “There wasn’t time to test different platforms and ease into it,” shares John.  “We had to move quickly, because people counted on our team to get medical professionals to New York City and other hotspots.”

The executive team created a plan to go fully remote, and over the course of 72 hours the entire team was working from home.  “It was an operational mega-accomplishment, and that was a team effort,” says John.  “As we were in the eye of the storm and contracts were canceled, we had to work out and find new processes and workflows to work faster.  We were triaging Triage Staffing, in a sense.”

While “triaging Triage Staffing,” John and his team quickly realized that they needed more internal staff – and travelers – to keep up with demand.  “We made two key strategic decisions in early 2020 in the form of acquisitions.  We acquired another staffing firm, and we also acquired a tech company to grow Triage Staffing.  We made internal investments in people and systems to be able to rapidly scale.”

Triage Staffing Interview - Medical Staffing Agencv

COVID-19 Impact on Revenue

Seeing these huge changes in the industry, we had to ask, “What happened with the business?”  Many (perhaps, all) companies saw their regular yearly calendar, with known busy seasons and lulls, go out the window.  What happened at Triage Staffing?

John answered the question with candor, saying, “We saw three periods. The business contracted from March to May, and then in July things began picking up.  Then August and September saw a record pace.  Overall, we’re up 20-25% where we were pre-COVID, because we were able to adapt.  We’re setting record numbers.  And candidly, because we have a really good team with excellent travelers.”

Triage Staffing Interview - Medical Staffing

Key Takeaways for Knackpackers

We loved talking with John about these big moves that happened in 2020, and we wanted to take it a step further, by really identifying key tactics that worked for the company.  Ideally, key tactics that other Knackpackers can learn from.  

Here’s what John had to say:

  1. “Be real” with clients and travelers:  “I’ve already touched on this a little bit,” shares John, “but it is critical to communicate honestly about assignments and what is possible.  We’re not jerks about it, but we also don’t gloss over things.  We tackle tough conversations.”
  2. Culture of Authenticity:  “In addition to ‘being real’ with travelers and clients, we’re also real with each other as a team.  We empower our staff members to be who they are.  We’re not asking them to be something they’re not, we ask them to be the best of who they are.  After all, how can our team be real and honest with others if they can’t be their full selves at work?”

Triage Staff Awards

Living a #OneBagLife in 2021

In the midst of these changes, the Knack Team sent John a Medium Knack Pack to use.  John is back in the office part-time, and he uses his Knack Pack to help him work remotely from a variety of places.  “My favorite thing about the Knack Pack is that it’s transitional and flexible,” shares John.  “I can kick around using it wearing shorts and flip flops, I can walk into a meeting wearing a suit.  It works for different areas of my life.”

He then added, “It even has sand in it!  I’ve been able to use it at the beach and the office.”

Interview with Triage Staffing CEO, John Maaske

Call for Interviews

Are you a business owner who has used a Knack Pack for yourself or your team?  We want to interview you!  Please send an email to support@knackbags.com with a few paragraphs about your business and how you use your Knack Pack.