How to Avoid Costly Overtime with Automated Scheduling Rules

Jan 11, 2021, 12:00 AM by Lori Furey

The COVID-19 crisis has brought many pre-existing concerns in the healthcare industry back into the spotlight, and one of the more prevalent issues has been the availability and proper scheduling of healthcare staff.

Nurses-Overtime-Costs-Healthcare

Sometimes overtime is necessary, but often the cost of overtime is driven up by last-minute changes and lack of visibility into the available options. Nurses in Canadian healthcare institutions are working an increasing amount of overtime hours year after year [1], a trend that has certainly not subsided during the COVID-19 pandemic – about 26% of all people employed in professional nursing occupations worked overtime in April and May of this year alone[2]. The cost implications go beyond the overtime hours worked; there is a significant administrative cost in making sure that the schedules are sufficient for patient care and compliant with union and budget restrictions, and the cost of grievances if overtime is offered incorrectly or unnecessarily. With the automated scheduling rules in Logibec’s Scheduling & Analytics solution, you can spot potential overtime issues as early as the planning stage in master rotations all the way through to filling a late-notice open shift.

 

4 issues related to overtime that directly impact health costs and staff well-being

These rules are configured into the application and are based specifically on the collective bargaining agreements related to your staff, as well as any policies specific to your organization, and you can have variations of the rules for different groups of employees. Because Logibec Scheduling & Analytics is developed in Canada for Canadian healthcare, we are well aware of the complexities and specifics involved in scheduling with competing union requirements and we have dedicated significant time and resources to ensuring our rules engine can save you precious time where it matters most. 

Automated rules in the master rotation stage of your scheduling process can prevent overtime-inducing errors before they are published and posted to the work schedules. As you plot the necessary shifts for each position and date, the application constantly checks these plotted shifts against the configured scheduling rules. If you plot a shift for a position that would violate a scheduling rule and incur an overtime premium, the system flags it so it can be reviewed before making it final. When you view the rule violations here, the offending shift (or series of shifts) is highlighted on the screen, and the specific violated rules and their descriptions are detailed for you so that you can gain a full understanding of the issue and re-plot the shift in a way that avoids that overtime cost. Catching these scheduling issues in the master rotations stage ensures that the master schedules published from these rotations won’t contain overtime payments.

 

Spot-potential-staff-overtime

However, many of these overtime instances are not occurring so early in the scheduling process; many of the last-minute decisions leading to increased overtime costs are a result of late-notice absences and shift vacancies. There are several ways that schedulers and managers can fill open shifts in Logibec Scheduling & Analytics, and all of them make use of the automated scheduling rules to flag potential overtime occurrences; this can provide invaluable guidance when you are trying to select a replacement employee for an open shift. With our Shift Replacement features, there are rules specific to replacement scheduling, which provides schedulers with a ranked list of employees who can fill that shift based on configured eligibility requirements. Schedulers can view the employees on that list, as well as their current schedule and how that open shift would affect their schedule and workload and the standard scheduling rules are run just as they are in master rotations; if scheduling that employee to that shift will trigger an overtime premium, schedulers are alerted so that they have the option to avoid it before they offer the shift to that employee. Once schedulers are aware of the increased cost of this employee, they can more easily select a different option. 

In a pandemic environment, healthcare organizations need to be very conscious of the effects that their scheduling processes can have on their workforce and on their budget, particularly when it comes to overtime; this is especially true when that overtime happens unnecessarily, costing the organization in terms of budget and absenteeism and the affected employees in terms of overwork and exhaustion, putting more pressure on an already-taxed healthcare system. Having full visibility into the employees that you already have on staff and available to schedule, instead of extending an existing shift for a worn-out nurse or scheduling a more expensive agency nurse, can save your organization costs incurred by overtime premiums and keep your existing workforce happier and healthier in their workplace.

White-Paper-Scheduling-Efficiency

[1]  Drebit, Sharla et al. “Trends and costs of overtime among nurses in Canada.” Health policy (Amsterdam, Netherlands) vol. 96,1 (2010): 28-35. doi:10.1016/j.healthpol.2009.12.016

[2] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2020001/article/00074-eng.htm