Hospitals experience periods of high and low traffic, not to mention emergencies that can cause chaos. Therefore, they need to streamline their processes to ensure patients receive the best care, and nurses are not overworked. How can hospitals strike a balance between workforce satisfaction and optimal patient care?
Research shows that overworking leads to workforce dissatisfaction and a drop in productivity. Luckily, healthcare facilities can achieve a balance and improved results with hospital scheduling software.
Organising human resources in hospitals is a complex and dynamic process. You have to balance work hours, ensure shifts do not overlap and prepare for unexpected shift changes. The nurse scheduling process often relies on the hospital’s culture and organisation structure. Some hospitals manage their schedule through a centralised system, while others use decentralised systems. However, no system is one-size-fits-all, and organisations should find a plan that improves positive outcomes.
Let’s look at the shortcomings of centralised scheduling and why you should consider a decentralised system to improve productivity.
Centralised Nurse Scheduling
A centralised scheduling system manages and plans the nurses’ work routines from a central location. Therefore, if a hospital has branches, all the work schedules are prepared at the head office. A hospital can streamline processes like resource management, technology, and policies with a centralised hospital scheduling software. A central system has rules on cancellation, schedule lengths, standby fill-ins, and vacations. That means nurses can adhere to the routine with minimal chance of errors.
The single point of contact for nurses improves consistency in the interpretation of collective agreements and scheduling policies. Hospitals will have increased control and streamlined workflows that enhance efficiency. The scheduler can also measure performance easily using various tools and procedures from a central location.
A centralised model is useful when handling a group of hospitals from one location. You can schedule nurses from a single pool, and they will easily move from one hospital to another if they are booked for an overstaffed shift.
Drawbacks of Centralised Scheduling of Nurses
Despite its benefits, a centralised system has limitations that can affect an organisation’s outcomes. Some of its drawbacks include:
Lack of Flexibility
In a centralised staff scheduling system, nurses have a hard time changing shifts without reporting to the central office. Any small glitch or change can collapse the whole schedule. For instance, if a nurse does not show up to work, you have to fill in their position with a standby nurse who may also have a shift to cover. The rigidity can overwhelm some staff and reduce productivity.
Less Efficient Scheduling Practices
If a nurse is uncomfortable working with someone, a scheduler from a central location may not understand the impact on their productivity. Scheduling should improve satisfaction since frustrations will reduce positive outcomes.
What Is Decentralised Nurse Scheduling?
With a decentralised system, scheduling is handled at the unit or department levels. That means, every hospital or department is in charge of preparing their shifts without interference from top-level management. A decentralised staffing model gives hospitals more independence, and the nurses get the job satisfaction they want. If you use employee scheduling software to manage your nurses, you can improve accountability and transparency. Besides, you can manage the schedules in real-time through the electronic system.
This system allows nurses to choose shifts they are comfortable with and rotate freely within departments. You can also monitor work hours and overtime to optimise cost. With the decentralised system, the unit manager can match their staffing needs to the available personnel. There will be no need to float nurses to other units due to overstaffing. If the hospital requires additional nurses, they will fill the deficiency from an internal pool with minimal vetting.
Why Choose Decentralised Nurse Scheduling?
Unit managers have first-hand knowledge of the needs in their hospital. Therefore, they can organise their human resources accordingly to optimise productivity and improve patient satisfaction. A decentralised system increases efficiency by reducing floating.
Nurses are involved in shift-planning, which means they can choose convenient working hours. They can also select a department where they can provide optimal care to patients.
The introduction of decentralised nurse scheduling can increase work satisfaction. The staff’s performance will improve, and they will provide high-quality care since they are not overwhelmed. Therefore, giving employees a little freedom makes them happy and motivates them to produce better results.
Challenges When Scheduling Nurses
Scheduling nurses has numerous challenges and unpredictable factors that affect efficiency. Some of the challenges include:
Difficulty in Predicting Patient Census
Even with an excellent schedule, you cannot predict the number of patients that will walk into the hospital any day. Sometimes the patients are few, and if nurses are overstaffed, the hospital will be paying for unnecessary labour. If you have many patients and few nurses, you will be understaffed; that leads to overworking and poor service delivery. Besides, you cannot predict the sickness levels, and you may need more staff to deal with emergencies.
Navigating Schedules for Part-Time and Full-Time Nurses
Every hospital has its fair share of part-time and full-time nurses. Full-time nurses earn more and require full-time working hours. On the other hand, part-time nurses are cost-effective and increase flexibility in scheduling. Hospitals have to find the right mix and create a suitable schedule to maximise full-time and part-time nurses’ productivity.
Length of Nursing Shifts
Hospitals have varying lengths of shifts, depending on the type of care and flexibility of the workforce. However, the shift length can pose problems in scheduling. For instance, centralised systems favour long shifts since they provide little room for errors. Short shifts of four or six hours mean preparing the nurse shift planner will be complicated. The scheduler has to balance employee work hours, factor in vacation time, and ensure no overlapping shifts.
Nurse scheduling is vital for optimal performance in hospitals. The decentralised scheduling system increases employee involvement in the decision-making process. Therefore, it brings more favourable outcomes compared to a centralised scheduling system.