Inadequate Nurse Scheduling Processes Can Create Problems for Nurses

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Even for highly rated healthcare organizations that are achieving very good clinical outcomes for patients, nurse scheduling can be one of multiple operational inefficiencies with major downstream consequences. There are problems that are inherent to the ways nurse scheduling has traditionally functioned; they involve pain-points that affect nurses, nurse leaders, hospitals, and patients. In turn, these difficulties often can connect to issues with work satisfaction, nurse disengagement, as well  as have an impact on clinical outcomes and reduction in hospital revenue. When many organizations examine their challenges, such as patient throughput and left-without-being-seen numbers, they often find them to be directly related to nurse staff scheduling and communication.

The Impact of an Inadequate Scheduling Process on Nurses

A significant pain point for nurses occurs around the real time communication of schedules. Among nurses, some of their biggest concerns are around staffing levels, as well as managing their personal schedules and how those schedules are delivered to them. Over time, healthcare organizations have adopted myriad nurse scheduling solutions. A typical problem, however, is end user adoption failure. Even though hospitals spend a lot of money and time to deliver healthcare technology to their clinicians, many of these solutions fail to include the end user in the development of the technology. An important answer to this problem is to create a solution that nurses actually like to use and that works well for them. Especially with the growing consumer adoption of mobile devices, nurses need to be able to access information from the tip of their fingers, just like everyone else.

Inflexible Permanent Calendar Publishing

A typical problem occurs once a nursing schedule is finalized for the upcoming month or scheduling period. The final schedule is often emailed out to everyone, printed and posted in the break room, or published through the internet. Commonly, though, the schedule is either not accessible from home, or rarely accessible on a mobile device. If the schedule is a static document, it is very difficult to deal with all the changes that come up—posting and filling open shifts, approving shift swaps, etc., and then ensuring all changes are fed back into the permanent schedule.

Online Calendars Not Designed for Nurse Use

Using a traditional online calendar to track nursing shifts can be very tedious. For example, using iCal, Google Calendar, or your phone’s native calendar requires that you go into each individual day and select the start and end time. Standardized calendars and schedules are not overly conducive to nightshifts and third shifts that span two calendar days.

Poor Communication for Coverage Needs

A major complaint heard among nurses is about getting text messages and phone calls to cover a shift when they are already on their way into work. Not only does this indicate that real-time tracking of coverage doesn’t exist, but it also alerts them that their shifts will likely be short-staffed. This is the equivalent of warning important employees they may have a horrible shift experience in advance. Similarly, a group text message from a manager looking for coverage can seem efficient, but this method typically doesn’t exclude those who will already be working. Now they’ll come to work with expecting a poor experience, which can have an impact on outcomes.

This blog post is the first in a series based on the HealthStream Webinar, Fill Open Shifts Faster with Nurse-Centric Technology, which features leaders from HealthStream partner NurseGrid, an organization whose widely adopted nurse scheduling platform was inspired by the core belief that health care systems and providers must have the best tools in order to provide the most efficient and effective patient and nursing experience. Presenter Joe Novello, NurseGrid’s Founder, is a nurse who has worked in and around hospitals for more than 20 years as a clinician and a clinical operational leader. He was joined by Connor Whan, a healthcare entrepreneur who has been with NurseGrid for much of the organization’s existence, who has led conversations with thousands of nurses and nurse leaders across the country, to ensure NurseGrid remains at the forefront of supporting nurses personally and professionally. Learn about using NurseGrid to improve the nurse scheduling process.