Provider Pool Makes the “Future of Work” Work for Nurses
January 01, 2021
By Emily Bestwick, ECMC Foundation Program and Investment Officer
Janna Westbrook began her path to tech entrepreneurship in scrubs.
“I love all things nursing,” she said of her 10-year career as a nurse in St. Louis, MO.
As much as she loved her job, her last few years as a director of nursing across multiple facilities brought long hours and a creeping sense of burnout. She needed more nurses to fill shifts, but staffing firms can be expensive. Not only did she feel stretched thin, so did her nurses.
That’s when Janna developed the idea behind Provider Pool, an online marketplace where healthcare organizations can manage staffing needs and nursing professionals can easily navigate employment opportunities. The platform provides a modern, lower-cost tool for agencies to staff shifts, share reviews, verify credentials and manage paychecks while creating opportunities for nurses to obtain meaningful employment and higher wages.
“Our platform accommodates the future of work,” Janna said. “The way we find work [and] the way professionals engage with the companies that they work for.”
Provider Pool may be cost-effective for healthcare organizations, but that doesn’t mean its nurses—who are mostly women, particularly Black women—get shortchanged. Most nurses on Provider Pool are paid between $35-$37 per hour, significantly higher than Missouri’s state average of $22 per hour for licensed practical nurses.
Provider Pool secured an investment from ECMC Foundation at the #InvestInWomen event with Chloe Capital in February 2020, just as COVID-19 began ratcheting up the pressure on an already overworked workforce. At the time, Janna was recruiting nurses to join the platform.
“COVID brought the demand when I had been recruiting supply all along,” she said.
The pandemic has squeezed the U.S. labor market on multiple fronts, with mass unemployment leaving many out of work, while essential workers in frontline positions often face high risk for lower pay. For those who are able to work, juggling caregiving for loved ones has created an impossible balancing act. Workers in the health care field have been especially tested by these compounding pressures of the pandemic.
Finding and onboarding skilled nurses and other health care professionals –- fast -- is critical to relieving some of the strain as hospitals and long-term care facilities face the toughest stretch of pandemic. Provider Pool’s initial base of nurses are concentrated in long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, where the spread of COVID-19 has been particularly high. The company’s marketplace also gives nurses in long term care an opportunity to earn more in one of the fastest growing jobs in the United States.
Even as the first vaccines are administered to health care workers and long-term care facilities , Provider Pool offers a long-term solution to short-term staffing shortages. After all, Janna founded Provider Pool to address nurse burnout well before the pandemic.
Innovation sparked by lived experience is one of the reasons why Provider Pool is so useful to the nurses and employers on its platform. But connecting these dots for investors has not always been easy.
“Health care is very interdisciplinary. We work together; we make referrals to other health care providers. That’s just not how it works in business,” Janna says of her transition from nurse to tech entrepreneur. “I had to learn how to compete.”
The #InvestinWomen event did not just offer Janna an investment to grow her company, but its workshops, pitch competition, and investor “speed dating” helped Janna and the other women founders sharpen their skills for future opportunities. While under three percent of all venture capital funding goes to women, even less -- .0006 percent -- goes to Black women founders. By providing capital and skills building and networking opportunities for women founders, ECMC Foundation and Chloe Capital are aiming to boost these numbers over the long term.
“Anytime you can get in front of really seasoned investors who are going to ask you worthwhile questions, it’s a great learning experience,” reflected Janna. “I learned a ton just from those investor speed dating [conversations].”
Looking ahead, Provider Pool aims to extend its vision of the future of work in nursing to more nurses, helping long-term and home care nurses upskill and obtain greater economic mobility.
But Janna does not want to stop there: “We will be the most trusted, collaborative digital marketplace of healthcare professionals in the country.”