Matching COVID Care Workers with Open Massachusetts Jobs

Ozlem Ergun

Ozlem Ergun, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, has recently partnered with the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) to help match qualified workers to healthcare facilities with open positions around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, healthcare centers are experiencing a huge surge in need for qualified professionals to care for patients, but each facility has different needs—in terms of open positions, availability, and capabilities—and each applicant has constraints, such as how far they are willing to travel.

In late March, Ergun received a request from the EOEA to see if she and the PhD students in her lab could create a process to facilitate hiring for more than 300 long-term care facilities throughout the entire Commonwealth.

Ergun and her team, in collaboration with the state of Massachusetts, created a matching optimization algorithm and on online portal called COVID-19 Long Term Care Facility Staffing Team. The portal coordinates the intake of job applicants’ information and matches it automatically to an ever-changing list of facility staffing needs.

“We designed the questions for the applications to match up with the needs of the facilities so we can screen for location, job skills, and transportation needs to match workers up with jobs almost immediately,” explains Ergun. “Facilities receive a report of applicants and have a 24-hour window to hire who they need; after that time frame, the applicants go back into the pool and are offered to other facilities because the demand for workers far outweighs the supply at the moment.”

Ergun and her team also receive daily urgent requests for specific facilities that come through the Commonwealth’s command center. They are able to enter them into the system with a preference so that site’s needs are given a higher weight.

The portal is highly efficient, with approximately 1,000 applicants in the pool at any given time. The number of roles filled per day varies, but an example day in mid-April saw 826 people matched to jobs at 161 different facilities.

“The PhD students in my lab are running the whole project,” says Ergun. “They built the algorithm, acquire the data and make sure it’s clean, run the matching—everything. They are doing an excellent job.”

Ergun and her team will be working on the COVID-19 LTC project for the foreseeable future to ensure that the healthcare needs of the Commonwealth are being met during these unprecedented times. She has received a National Science Foundation RAPID grant for this work.

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Related Faculty: Ozlem Ergun

Related Departments:Mechanical & Industrial Engineering