4 Vacation Scheduling Tips for Nurse Managers

4 Vacation Scheduling Tips for Nurse Managers

Shane Parker, RN
Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer

Memorial Day is in the rearview mirror. Schools let out weeks ago. Soon the summer vacation requests will begin hitting your desk – if they haven’t already.

Vacation time gives nurses the chance to refresh and recharge. Taking an extended block of time off work can help them avoid compassion fatigue and nurse burnout. You get that. But, as a nurse manager, you have to juggle your appreciation of a nurse’s need to take some time off and your responsibility to maintain adequate staffing levels for patient safety. If both Becky and Bob want the same week off, and it’s going to leave you in a crunch, what are you going to do? Try these tips to help your nurses get valuable leave time while making sure you have enough clinicians around to provide the exceptional care your patients deserve.

1. Start the process early

 Sometime in February or March – after the holidays but well before the school year ends –remind staff about the organization’s vacation policies and procedures. This reminder serves two purposes. First, it allows you to communicate your commitment to following the rules for everyone’s benefit. Second, it helps staff plan their summer vacation dates based on policy requirements. For example, if time off is given based on seniority, then less-senior nurses may realize that planning their vacation for off-peak dates makes it more likely to be approved.

2. Set a deadline for summer vacation requests

Unless it’s prohibited (or dictated) by your facility’s policy, feel free to set your own deadline by which nurses need to submit their vacation requests to you. This enables you to evaluate how nurse absences will affect your overall staffing needs, based on historic census trends. Allowing yourself this time to process vacation requests also permits you to negotiate with individual nurses in order to maintain adequate staffing levels while still helping everyone get their time off.

3. Encourage nurses to swap shifts

To take some of the scheduling burden off your shoulders, encourage nurses with approved vacation time to offer their shifts to colleagues. One easy way to do this is through scheduling software like ShiftWizard. With just the click of a button, nurses can engage in self-scheduling and offer to swap shifts with others (or simply give a shift away), which can make it possible for everyone to get the vacation dates they want. Plus, some nurses see summer vacation time as an opportunity to boost their income by working more shifts. By allowing nurses to swap, give away and pick up shifts, you make vacation scheduling a hassle-free event

4. Incentivize shifts on prime vacation dates

 If you find that overlapping vacation requests will make it hard to maintain adequate coverage, try incentivizing those shifts to encourage nurses to pick them up. Technology like ShiftWizard can highlight incentivized shifts within the self-scheduling module. This allows any qualified nurse to sign up for that shift and earn some sort of bonus. And the incentive doesn’t have to be cash. Many hospitals and clinics offer perks like a premium parking space or tickets to a movie as incentives. These low-cost options boost morale, help you cover your vacation needs and avoid spending high dollars for agency nurses to cover shifts.

When it comes to doling out vacation time, is it possible to make every nurse on the unit happy? Probably not. But when you harness the power of scheduling software, you can do your very best to say “yes” to every request while still maintaining adequate staffing levels – and without breaking the bank to do it.

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