Unlike your standard 9-5 office, healthcare requires 24-hour scheduling and constant flexibility. Scheduling in healthcare is a headache when it comes to balancing time off, workload, and seasonality. With the right scheduling, patient outcomes can improve and staff can find some consistency. Use these five tips to create a better schedule in your health system.
Consider Patient Care
Quality patient care is the core mission in any healthcare system. You want to provide excellent service and the best patient outcomes possible. Scheduling can play a big part in achieving that level of care. Scheduling enough nurses, doctors, and support staff is essential to ensure a patient receives the attention needed to prevent a bedsore or a transfusion during a hemorrhage.
Poor scheduling can lead to overexerted staff – and mistakes. Identifying when there's a peak need for staff is one way to improve the schedule and patient outcomes. Talk to staff about when they perform the bulk of their work. Follow patient stays to identify where there's an extra need for care. Use your automated workforce management system to trace workload and create more flexible schedules to meet those needs. Rather than adhering to a rigid schedule, schedule to increase positive outcomes for patients.
Make the Schedule Easy to Access
Healthcare is a round-the-clock endeavor, and the people doing the scheduling may not see or interact with those they put on the schedule – which can create problems. An online and easy-to-access schedule is a great way to ensure that employees are aware of their shifts and any potential issues with the schedule are detected immediately. Time and attendance software can also easily allow messages to be sent between managers and employees for better understanding and rescheduling.
Congregate Planned Absences
Healthcare workers need their rest. They work hard and time off provides the mental health rest necessary to continue providing quality patient care. Despite that, providing time off can be difficult, particularly across multiple departments. It may be fine for two nurse aides to take the same night off, but if there's also three doctors and a nurse off that night, it can quickly get overwhelming for the employees left behind. Too often, healthcare systems allow scheduling to exist in a departmental vacuum, not considering how interconnected each department is to the process. A master schedule that tracks time off for all employees is a great way to ensure that each manager is aware of other departments' staffing and schedule accordingly.
Maintain a List of Employees and Training
One of the basics of better healthcare scheduling isn't more staff, but understanding the training and experience of current staff. Few people in the healthcare industry are one-trick ponies. Your triage nurse may be able to run a code and your lab staff may be able to assist with phlebotomy. Understanding who is available and their skill set is essential in scheduling more effectively. Maintain an updated list of each employee and their training. When one area is understaffed or has a heavy workload, use that list to determine whether others can float, rather than calling for reinforcements.
Prepare for Disaster
There are few guarantees in life, but if you work in healthcare, disaster is one of them. Bad weather, electricity outages, and large-scale tragedy can turn a normal day at work into a life or death situation. Healthcare systems need to be able to get stronger through tragedy, not fall apart. One way to combat catastrophe is to have the capability to react to disaster by calling in more staff and the right staff. Create a comprehensive disaster staffing schedule with an updated phone tree and departmental procedures for emergency situations.
Although working in the healthcare industry can often be stressful, creating and working with a functioning scheduling system can help relieve some of the pressure.