Nurse Scheduling Technology: Why is it Critical in Healthcare

Nurse Scheduling Technology: Why is it Critical in Healthcare
Marketing Manager

Nearly all nurse managers agree that scheduling and staffing problems have a negative and lasting impact on staff morale. In fact, according to a recent AMN Healthcare report, 94 percent of nurse managers and registered nurses (RN) surveyed agreed that constant understaffing leads to low morale; and nearly 90 percent said it makes nurses feel that nobody appreciates their hard work. “When staffing is low, staff doesn’t have faith that it will ever get better,” a nursing manager says. “They don’t feel like anyone cares how hard they work, and I see how this impacts patient care.”

The Toll of Ongoing Scheduling and Staffing Problems

The consequences of these issues can’t be understated. When poor scheduling and understaffing becomes a long-term issue, burnout, turnover, and medical errors increase, which lead to poor care quality and unsafe practices; this affects the safety and their commitment to patients.

Managers must also consider the personal impact it may have on staff. It can cause fatigue and inattention due to long hours, poor eating and sleeping habits caused by long shifts that don’t include enough breaks. “I have a lack of balance for [my] personal health,” a registered nurse says. “I get to work early and stay late. My poor diet and lack of exercise are resulting in weight gain.”

Another concern affecting morale among nurses is that they are unable to provide the necessary level of care and commitment to patients because of situational short staffing. “When there are not enough staff in my unit, I feel like my patients are not getting the appropriate care, because we have to rush them out and move on to the next patient,” a registered nurse says. “The hospital will continue to schedule surgeries when there is a bed shortage – that puts pressure on all of us from the recovery room to the floor.” This kind of understaffing, nurses believe, could potentially put their licenses at risk because patients aren’t receiving the proper medications and care they require in a timely manner.

Advanced Scheduling Technology

One of the most effective ways healthcare organizations can improve scheduling and staffing processes is to employ technology-enabled solutions. Today, there is advanced scheduling technology available to help nurses and managers forecast patient demands and staffing needs in healthcare settings of all sizes. This includes predictive analytics, which uses data mining, statistics, modeling, and algorithms; labor management solutions that apply those predictions to healthcare workforce scheduling and staff; and software that uses forecasting in the automation of planning, scheduling, staffing, deployment and reporting.

Although this scheduling technology exists, the report reveals that 80 percent of nursing managers stated they weren’t aware of these solutions. They also didn’t know it could help them manage and solve scheduling and staffing problems up to 120 days in advance of the shift.

Those who have adopted predictive analytics and advanced labor management tools have noticed positive results. Not only does it allow nursing managers to communicate with staff effectively, they’ve seen reductions in agency nursing, increased staff satisfaction scores, improved nurse retention, reductions in open shift incentives and bonus pay—in addition to significant annual savings in labor spending. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially staff and patients alike.

Whether you’re new or a veteran in the field, I’m sure you’ve seen conflicts rise due to poor scheduling and staffing procedures. What would you recommended to others in the profession? Please share! We as well as your peers would love to hear from you.

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