Setting the Perfect Nurse Rotation Schedule

April 16, 2021
April 16, 2021

Nurse leaders navigate their way through some of the toughest challenges in healthcare, and there is one challenge that will almost always be on their radar—scheduling. Shortages in nursing and for other healthcare professionals have only served to amplify the problem making the task of scheduling feel like trying to perpetually put a fitted twin sheet on a king-sized bed.  

A rotating shift consists of morning, evening, and night shifts alternating during a month. So what are the keys to optimizing a schedule for the nurses who work them and to ensure the best care and the best outcomes for their patients?

Why it Matters - Understanding the Issues

Providing safe and effective care for patients is a nurse manager’s first priority, and an inadequately or inappropriately staffed unit or department can represent a significant threat to patient safety.

Scheduling issues are frequently the source of job dissatisfaction for both managers and individual contributors. Frequent interruptions on days off to deal with scheduling issues and respond to requests for additional hours and shifts can negatively impact work-life balance, and it is physically and emotionally draining to routinely work extra shifts.

In addition to staff morale, the patient experience and the quality of care is also likely to suffer when scheduling remains an issue for a unit or department. Nurse fatigue and short-staffed units can contribute to errors that may lead to complications and readmissions and may also change a patient’s perception of their experience.

Time management is an ongoing issue for nurse managers and scheduling problems can make that worse. Last minute rescheduling for call-outs, correcting scheduling errors, and addressing changes in patient volumes and acuity can take an extraordinary amount of a nurse leader’s time and make time management harder. Further contributing to scheduling difficulties is the fact that putting together a nurse rotation schedule remains a largely manual process.

Scheduling Solutions That Work

Increasingly, the answers to some of the most difficult scheduling problems appear to be found in technology. There are apps, such as NurseGrid that can help nurses manage their own schedules while freeing up their managers for other, more-pressing duties. It has advantages that a more manual scheduling process might not be able to duplicate.

Offering self-scheduling does not mean that the nurse manager cannot establish parameters for the qualifications and experience levels required for each shift. It is still essential that nurse rotation schedules include both experienced and newer nurses.

Scheduling and Nurse Engagement

Do you have a best friend at work? The Gallup Organization has included this question in their employee engagement research for years now. Their customers embrace the question with various degrees of enthusiasm, but the truth is that their research conducted with thousands of employees makes one thing clear and undisputable. Employees are up to twice as likely to be engaged if they have indicated that they do have a best friend at work.  

While most organizations are trying to drive higher levels of employee engagement, it is important to note that that higher levels of engagement may also lead to improvement in the kinds of metrics that are on the dashboards of all leaders. Gallup’s research suggests that improving performance on engagement can also lead to meaningful improvements in such key metrics as reductions in safety-related incidents, an increase in the number of engaged customers as well as higher profits.

Employees in organizations with high levels of engagement also report high levels of empowerment. Empowering nurses to help build their own schedules and also show them when their favorite co-workers are working can help build both engagement and satisfaction.

Scheduling – Nurses as Partners

Empowering individual nurses to have some control over their work schedules can lead to greater levels of engagement for nurses, but it also has benefits for nurse leaders. Managers still need to ensure that the unit is properly staffed for volume and acuity, but self-scheduling can relieve a significant amount of the scheduling burden and move the manager to a reviewer rather than a creator when it comes to the schedule.

NurseGrid provides a platform that allows nurses to easily access those communications and communicate back to the hospital, allowing scheduling to occur at a more convenient time, whether during a shift or not, and also creating a professional place for a manager, supervisor or a staffing coordinator to communicate with their staff.

HealthStream Focuses on Nurses and Clinical Development

At HealthStream we spend a lot of time focused on improving outcomes by supporting and developing the clinical workforce. That’s why HealthStream and NurseGrid have joined forces to simplify scheduling and staffing management for your facility.