Employee scheduling is demanding enough as it is, but if there ever was a ranking of industries where it’s an enormous challenge, the healthcare industry surely is in a league of its own. Plagued by staff crunches and around-the-clock coverage 7 days a week, creating an effective and agile schedule is an almost herculean task for staff managers. They already have to deal with employees with different specialisations and certifications as well as full-time and part-time staff. Throw patient care into this mix, the core foundation of the industry as a whole, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Unless that is, of course, you use the right hospital rostering software for the job.
Tools such as these allow the organisation to provide exemplary care to their patients through the proper management of healthcare staff. From a staff manager’s perspective, these are the questions a healthcare scheduling software should be able to answer, and answering these questions and more granular ones like these are imperative from an overall patient-care vs. employee satisfaction perspective.
- Are the right nurses being made available to patients with specific needs?
- Is the skill matrix requirement at any given point being met?
- Are the nurses being overworked or underutilised (although in all honesty, the latter rarely happens)? If so, is this being addressed or going overlooked?
- Are the nurses able to achieve some semblance of a work-life balance?
- Is the overall productivity and efficiency of the nursing staff improving over time?
Let’s look a little deeper into the challenges that an effective healthcare rostering software can streamline.
Enabling Shift Agility
Ask any shift manager and they will tell you one of the biggest challenges they face on a daily basis is creating shifts that meet their nurse’s personal and professional needs. In the controlled chaos of a patient-care environment, it’s easy to forget that nurses are people too, with families, commitments and obligations. Many are working their way through higher education or simply stretching themselves to find time to spend with their families.
A good way to deal with this is through open lines of communication and a rostering system that is agile enough to account for personal preferences, unavailability and so on. From interactions with our customers, we know firsthand how this simple level of agility delivers many tangible benefits, chief among them, the morale of the nursing staff. The fact that schedules are now being made keeping their specific needs in mind means that they’re no longer taking care of patients while quietly suffering from missing their child’s soccer game or an important class. This creates a positive work environment and higher patient care levels that can be directly attributed to carefully crafted rosters.
Enabling Proper Shift Forecasting
No schedule is perfect even if you’ve been using the same template for ages, and chances are that the rosters are modified many times before the nursing staff begins working the allotted times. This is a fact of employee roster management that shift managers must come to terms with as a fact of life; things change. This necessity to adapt quickly to change is a feature that’s at the heart of our hospital rostering software.
By looking at the flow of patient requirements, the skill sets on average needed to meet those requirements and finally, the availability of the nursing staff, a well-planned schedule slowly begins to emerge. This is not to say that edits will be done away with entirely, but using scheduling software that allows for quick and easy customisation is a much easier way of employee rostering as opposed to wasting time through outdated methods like Excel Spreadsheets and manual shift briefings.
Enabling Proper Shift Trade Management
A lot of companies across industries advocate delegating more responsibility to employees to reduce the burden on the managerial staff. This is especially true in the healthcare industry where nurses in a lot of healthcare settings are allowed to trade shifts amongst themselves directly, only making it to the official schedule once the manager has approved it.
Despite the advantages of shift forecasting extolled in the previous section, shift managers often must face the reality that last-minute changes can never be truly planned for, only addressed and monitored. By enabling the nurses to address these changes themselves the rostering software can allow managers to focus on effectively monitoring shift trades instead, thereby ensuring no deficiency in service overall.
Avoiding Employee Overtime
In the UK, a chronic shortage of nursing staff has resulted in existing nursing teams putting in incredibly long hours. A continuous overtime problem for healthcare organisations, this situation becomes even more acute when you consider what these long hours are doing to healthcare teams across the country. Employee burnout, resignations and patient treatment errors are all conditions that are becoming more and more prevalent.
Given that this problem isn’t going away any time soon, a good way to mitigate it is through technology, more specifically, a cutting edge healthcare rostering software. By looking at the flow of patients through a specific period, the system can help shift managers figure out the busiest times of the day or week and allocate nursing resources accordingly so that no one individual is stretched beyond their means and overtime and overwork, in general, is kept to a bare minimum.
Allowing for Patient Acuity
The last challenge that a good technology system can help meet is varying degrees of patient requirements or acuity. Not every patient is the same in terms of the care they need and this is a challenge that shift managers need to take into consideration when creating or managing their shift rosters. Some patients need extra care or require a nurse with a specialised skill. Not being able to offer that level of care would be seriously detrimental to both the patient and the organisation as a whole.
Fortunately, technology has progressed to a point where using outdated or ‘tried-and-true’ methods are no longer required. A well-designed healthcare rostering system can alleviate the burden on shift managers and include nurses into the shift management system contributing to higher morale and patient care levels.