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Savvy Ways to Handle Large Nurse Scheduling Gaps

You know how it goes. You’re in one of those periods where staffing is humming along. You have a great core group of nurses, and they rarely call off. For weeks you’ve hardly had to look at your staffing matrix.

And then six of your nurses announce they’re pregnant at the same time.

Naturally, you’re thrilled for these moms-to-be, but the nurse manager in you can’t help but devote a moment of thought to how you’re going to cover your staffing needs while these women cycle through their maternity leaves. Will you have to blow your budget on agency nurses? Can you perform some staffing wizardry to bring in nurses from another unit?

Scheduling software to the rescue

Of course, maternity leave isn’t the only scenario that can leave a nurse manager with a large schedule gap to fill. The inexplicable mass exodus of staff, new graduate nurses needing orientation shifts and other situations also can cause staffing headaches. To ease your burden and keep your department functioning at a high level, you can turn to several specific features of ShiftWizard scheduling software.

“Our software was developed by nurses. We understand the unique scheduling issues nurse managers face as they try to maintain the right staffing levels to deliver high-quality patient care,” said Shane Parker, RN, co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer of ShiftWizard. “We built in several scheduling functions that make it easier to deal with large coverage gaps due to things like maternity leaves.”

Share staff by using the enterprise view

When you have a large schedule gap looming, start by using the ShiftWizard enterprise view to look at staffing across the entire organization. With a few clicks, you can see which departments are over-staffed and communicate with managers in those areas about sharing nurses. You can request long-term floats until your nurses return from maternity leave or arrange for ad hoc sharing in anticipation of day-to-day staff shortages. Advance planning and collaboration with your fellow managers reduce the administrative burden of staffing for all of you.

Spare your budget

Reallocating nurses from other departments to cover your schedule gaps not only spares your budget from the high cost of calling in agency nurses but also helps you avoid paying overtime to nurses floated in from elsewhere in the organization. ShiftWizard will actually alert you if a particular nurse is on the brink of going into overtime status so you can adjust accordingly. How valuable is that feature? Well, ShiftWizard client WakeMed calculated $2.1 million in overtime savings over a two-year period after implementing the software.

Reduce the time burden of scheduling

A nurse manager’s focus should be on delivering high-quality patient care, but too frequently managers find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time on scheduling their staff – and when faced with a large schedule gap to fill, your time investment could be significant. Using the self-scheduling and shift swapping features of ShiftWizard reduces the amount of time you spend tweaking your nursing schedule and lets you devote your attention to more important tasks.

“ShiftWizard has significantly reduced the amount of time we spend on scheduling, freeing us up to do all those other things [we want to be focusing on],” said Scott Staup, RN, Labor and Delivery Nurse Manager at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.

Your department may never experience the phenomenon of six nurses becoming pregnant at the same time, but, as a nurse manager, you realize large schedule gaps are going to occur from time to time. Fortunately, ShiftWizard can help you limit the amount of time you must spend wrangling the staffing schedule to cover those shortages without forcing you to bust your budget on overtime or agency nurses.

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Healthcare Staff Scheduling. Developed by Nurses for Nurses.

ShiftWizard makes nurse scheduling and communication easy, so you can focus on what really matters—improving patient outcomes.