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November 1, 2016

3 Ways Better Communication Leads to Better Scheduling

By Nurse.org Staff Writer

No matter what industry you’re in, scheduling hourly workers can definitely be a hassle. This rings especially true for the healthcare industry, just because of the fact that the work day never truly ends. Anyone who manages and schedules nurses knows how much effort goes into the operation.

A nurse scheduler not only has to worry about scheduling staff for around the clock coverage, but to also make sure that the nurses are coming into work fresh and aren’t working unnecessary overtime shifts. It’s a very delicate process that requires a lot of analysis, planning and above all, communication. 

Good communication is a key factor for good scheduling in any industry, but in the nursing industry it’s of paramount importance. Of course, good communication is a two-way street, which means that getting feedback you can use from your nurses to improve the scheduling process is of the utmost importance. 

Not sure what you can do to improve the process and keep the lines of communication open between you and your nurses? Here are some things that you can do to not only increase the amount of feedback you get from your nursing staff, but also improve the quality of feedback you receive and ultimately, discover how better feedback converts to better scheduling. 

A Better Grasp of Staff Availability 

Scheduling is a process in which your nurses need to be included from the get-go. To be clear, the process does not start the moment you publish the new work schedule, it starts before you even begin to put it together.  

According to nursing industry management experts Russell and Richard Swansburg, “professional nurses want to have input into decisions but do not want to do the jobs of managers.” That means that they desire to provide feedback and allow their managers to use that feedback in order to build schedules that are going to benefit both staff and management. 

One of the best ways to improve your scheduling process before it even starts is to ask your nurses about their availability. Every nurse has a lot of things going on in his or her life outside of work. Some have families, others have school, some might even have second jobs. Communication with your staff and asking them about their personal schedules and their work preferences can really be a game changer when it comes to creating better schedules. 

Not only will you be increasing their level of workplace satisfaction by scheduling their shifts around their other obligations (whenever possible, of course), but you’ll also make your job a lot easier. The more information you have ahead of time, they better your scheduling process will become. 

Managers Have Less on Their Plates 

While scheduling in nursing is a huge task, there are so many other aspects of the job that need to be taken into consideration. And when managers spend hours upon hours trying to get their schedules just right, they often end up neglecting other obligations.

One of the biggest problems currently facing nursing and the healthcare industry in general is the high turnover rate.    According to a recent study, almost one in five nurses leaves their job within the first year. That’s a pretty alarming statistic. 

When managers have more time to worry about other issues outside of proper scheduling, they can focus on keeping their nursing staff happy. Less time scheduling means more time working on the workplace culture. 

Nurses tend to seek out institutions that stress safety for employees and patients and a commitment to great service in general. They also appreciate a higher level of independence at work. 

By listening to your nurses more and including them in the scheduling process, you’ll be able to give them more independence while taking work off your plate at the same time. 

One good way to simplify your scheduling process is to ditch the spreadsheets, pen and paper, or whatever you might be using, and switch over to online employee scheduling software. Many of these applications allow your employees to request shift trades and swaps on their own. By giving this option to your nurses, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time by not having to initiate and mediate every possible shift trade. Rather, you’ll be able to let your nurses make trade requests on their own. All you then have to do is see if the request is a viable and approve it if so.

Absences and Tardiness Decrease 

Putting together a great schedule that works for everyone is the first step. The next step is to make sure that everyone is informed of their shifts properly. Again, switching from antiquated workforce scheduling methods to a more modern solution like an online scheduling application could make a huge difference in this process as well. 

If you’re still calling all of your nurses individual to let them know when they’re working, or even worse - asking them to come into work to see the schedule - you’re running the risk of not only nurses missing shifts, but also becoming incredibly frustrated by the poor methods you are using to let everyone know when they’re working. 

You need to find a better way to communicate shifts to your nurses to ensure that everyone is well aware of when they need to work. Switching to an online scheduling application not only allows you to send emails, SMS messages and even mobile app notifications to your nurses every time you publish new shifts or make changes to existing ones, most also give your nurses notification options they can set up so that the software reminds them of upcoming shifts so they never forget to show up. 

Better communication leads to less confusion. Less confusion leads to not only better scheduling but improved attendance as well. In the end this all should lead to the ultimate goal - happier nurses and managers. 

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