Positive Impacts of Digitizing the Nurse Scheduling Process for Canadian Hospitals

Jun 8, 2020, 01:37 PM by Lori Furey

Human resources are one of the greatest sources of expense for hospitals. When looking at the average Canadian healthcare organization’s financial statement, chances are salaries and wages easily make up more than 70 percent of that institution’s total expenses. Evidently, healthcare professionals like nurses represent such a valuable resource, that healthcare facilities are determined to allocate them in a cost-effective way.

Smiling nurse participating in a team meeting on schedule management

One way to ensure the appropriate allocation of nursing resources is to digitize the scheduling process and empower nurses with more autonomy and control over their schedules. Autonomy and digital access can be the solutions to many conventional scheduling challenges faced by hospitals today. Let's discuss a few of the positive impacts digital scheduling can have for Canadian hospitals.

 

Ease of Use & Adaptability

Organizations in healthcare don't operate on a nine-to-five basis; patients require services 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, and nurses work both day and night shifts to provide them with the continuity of care they need. Nurses rarely work regular hours; even during a regular shift, nurses can be called upon to help with emergencies or get reassigned on new specific tasks. The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is a good example of an unforeseen situation forcing nurses to deviate from regular working hours and to adapt quickly to new circumstances. A digital schedule provides a centralized platform to manage last-minute shift replacements and to provide easy-to-use communication tools to share important information in real-time.

 

More Balanced Schedules

In the healthcare sector, nurses' work schedules are always subject to changes, sometimes at a moment's notice. These updates can be highly disruptive to nurses' personal lives despite the best efforts of schedulers and management teams to provide them with optimal schedules.

Some of the most common challenges regarding conventional scheduling processes include:

  • Frequent short notice schedule requests 
  • Schedules that change weekly
  • Lack of flexibility and transparency in the scheduling process
  • Nurses' lack of control over the allocation of overtime, time off, and extra shifts
  • Request processes that make it difficult to manage personal responsibilities effectively

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A suboptimal schedule may take many different shapes and could potentially occur for multiple reasons in hospitals where processes are still manually-driven. For instance, scheduling a nurse to work evening shifts for a week and then to work an additional day shift on Saturday, is the kind of oversight that can be highly disruptive for both an employee and his or her department. In this particular situation, the nurse would not have sufficient time to rest before the weekend shift, and there would be an increased risk for the nurse to make clinical errors. Ultimately, if continually repeated, this kind of schedule places both the nurse and patient at risk due to potential burnout and errors that could compromise patient safety.

Digital schedules provide nurses with increased autonomy allowing them to play an active role in the scheduling process, which dramatically decreases schedule-related errors, complaints, and conflicts. Nurses, therefore, have more control over their work schedules and can manage shift swaps, overtime, and time-off requests autonomously. With these tools, they can balance professional and personal lives more successfully.

 

Automated Processes

Digital scheduling solutions can assign nursing staff to shifts according to a facility's scheduling criteria and account for variables that may otherwise be missed with conventional review processes. Streamlining hospitals' staffing needs and schedule-related duties saves considerable time and administrative resources for scheduling departments and often results in significant overhead savings. Many automated scheduling systems also have built-in features that centralize all communications from nurses as well as requests for schedule and shift changes or updates. By leveraging these functionalities, nurses are more productive with their tasks, and hospitals can have the knowledge that their schedules are optimal.

 

Higher Patient Satisfaction

The automation of nurse scheduling processes has positive impacts on the nursing staff, but also on the healthcare organization as a whole. Optimal allocation of shifts and staff ensures that nurses are well-rested, guarantees the workload is evenly divided amongst them, and supports the delivery of excellent patient care.

When it comes to digitizing the nurse scheduling process, the overall positive impacts and savings opportunities far outweigh the initial challenges, such as costs, and integration with existing legacy systems. Every hospital or care institution in Canada should start considering these system upgrades to improve resource allocation, labour time management, and patient satisfaction.

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