3 Steps to Cost-Effective Staff Scheduling

Dustin Whiteley

Across our industry, hospitals struggle to rein in labor costs. In my work with hospital systems, I often see scheduling approaches that increase the cost of core staff coverage. There IS a better way to fill your shifts – sequenced scheduling.

Scheduling in three phases (or sequences) can reduce costs while covering patient care needs with the appropriate resources. Skill mix, experience mix, scope of practice and workforce capabilities are essential elements for success.

The core tenets of sequenced scheduling are: no pre-scheduled overtime—excluding Per Diems from the core schedule process—and balancing of core resources prior to open shift posting.

Here are the steps:

  1. First, schedule full-time and part-time staff to their maximum time commitment for that period (for example, 36 or 40 hours for FT and 24 hours for PT). It’s money poorly spent if you are paying OT or bringing in agency contractors to fill your core schedule before regular staff have reached their maximum time commitments.
  2. After scheduling your regular employees, fill open shifts with your Per Diem/Pro Rata Nurse resources. Use your available Per Diem/Pro Rata Nurse staff up to their full commitments for the scheduling period.
  3. Post open shifts only after you’ve completed the first two steps. If you are regularly paying overtime to fill the core schedule, it’s time to hire more staff or line up additional Per Diems.

It’s all about who is the most financially feasible resource for the shifts you need.

Try this three-phased approach to staff scheduling and let us know the effect on your labor costs. I look forward to your comments.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *