Nurse Scheduling 101: Tips From Scheduling Pros

nurse posing outside hospital

Nurse scheduling is no easy task. Variables such as 24/7 coverage, skill sets, certifications, and part-time/full-time designation complicate the issue even further.

Oh, and don’t forget patient needs! It almost seems like too much for one person to handle.

Inch is here to help. In this article, we discuss pro tips to help you dial in your nurse scheduling and what to look for in the tools you choose to make the job easier.

Pro Tips For Nurse Scheduling

Nurse checking in a patient

1) Publish The Schedule Well In Advance

Publishing your nurse schedule well in advance gives your team members plenty of time to:

  • Make any necessary changes
  • Plan their personal lives
  • Avoid conflicts that affect the rest of the team

If you publish the schedule the day before it goes into effect, your team won’t have time to organize their family and non-work activities.

That can lead to situations where employees simply don’t show up for work and leave you with the heavy responsibility of finding replacements at the last minute.

Create, finalize, and distribute the schedule with plenty of lead time to make the entire nurse scheduling process more effective.

2) Build An On-Call Schedule As Well

If you’ve managed a team of nurses for any length of time, you know that it doesn’t matter how well you plan, something will disrupt the schedule you’ve created.

One team member slated to work may have a family emergency to attend to. Another team member may get sick. Yet another may be running late. The list of possibilities is, literally, endless and can occur at any time.

That’s why we recommend building an on-call roster as part of your nurse scheduling efforts.

This may be as simple as a list of one or two individuals who are willing to come in on short notice if another team member can’t make it. Or, it may be as complicated as a complete second schedule that kicks into effect in the event of an emergency.

Experiment with different formats and choose the one that works best for your team.

3) Avoid Scheduling Overtime

nurse putting on her mask

When it comes to nurse scheduling, overtime may be necessary now and then, but too much can affect team morale for the worse and seriously cut into your operating budget.

Avoid scheduling overtime whenever possible. When it is necessary, keep it to a bare minimum with the help of monitoring software (which we’ll discuss later on in this article).

With such software, you can set limits on maximum work hours — and instruct the software to notify you when an employee exceeds that number — so that no one accumulates overtime without your knowledge and permission.

4) Factor In Patient Acuity Levels

Another important element of nurse scheduling is the intensity of care a given patient needs (a.k.a. patient acuity). Not everyone on your team can handle the higher acuity levels, so you’ll need to balance the schedule to ensure that you have the right skills available.

For example, nurses A, B, and C may be certified in a specific advanced form of care while nurses D, E, and F are not.

If you only schedule nurses D, E, and F for a given shift, the team will be without those advanced skills should an emergency arise.

Balance the work schedule so the group of nurses working every day is as well-rounded as possible.

5) Automate Nurse Scheduling With Software

One of the best things you can do to make your nurse scheduling efforts more effective is to automate the entire process with software.

Automation — a unique feature of the most advanced apps — uses data about the way your nursing staff works, user-defined parameters, and built-in artificial intelligence to help you select the best nurse for a particular shift.

For example, imagine that you need to put together a team for the afternoon shift on a specific day in May. With automation, you can instruct the app to sort through the variables you provide (such as skill level, experience, etc.), find a prospect, and insert them into the schedule.

Such automation can cut a significant amount of time off the nurse scheduling process and let you focus your energy on other aspects of the job.

What software makes all of these tips possible and easier to achieve? And, what other features do the best nurse scheduling programs contain? Read on to find out.

What To Look For In Nurse Scheduling Software

nurse scheduling on a laptop

1) Intuitive Interface

Nurse scheduling is hard enough — you don’t want the software you choose to make it even more difficult.

An intuitive interface goes a long way toward simplifying the process of putting together the best schedule for your team.

That interface contains the powerful features you need, and it will also be easy to understand and easy to use.

For example, advanced apps, such as Inch, let you:

  • Copy schedules between days or weeks
  • Create complicated shifts with ease
  • Drag and drop pre-set assignments
  • Tag employees with skills for fast searching
  • Control labor costs as you schedule
  • And much more…

All with an intuitive and easy-to-use calendar interface that allows you to incorporate the tips discussed in this article and manage your team like a pro.

2) Cloud-Based Nurse Scheduling

Another necessary feature of good nurse scheduling software is accessibility. Even the best schedule is useless if your team can’t access it when they need it.

Posting a paper copy of the schedule might work for those who work on-site, but such copies are a real problem for those who work at home or on the go.

You might overcome this by handing out a paper copy in addition to, or rather than, posting a copy at the nurses’ station. But it’s likely that many team members have gone digital and would lose or overlook the hard copy altogether.

The best way to provide the highest level of access for all your nurses, day or night and wherever they may be, is to store the schedule (and other information) in the cloud.

With cloud-based software, like Inch, your team can simply log on from their preferred device to find out when, where, and on what they will work next.

3) Task Control

nurse scheduling with inch

Nurse scheduling is about more than just assigning the days and shifts your team members will work.

It also includes managing the specific tasks they’ll perform while on the job. This is especially important because overlooking even just one of these tasks can lead to very real problems later on.

So, whether your nurses work onsite in a hospital, offsite as home healthcare providers, or a combination of the two, assigning tasks and ensuring that they get done when they’re supposed to is an essential part of your job and theirs.

Nurse scheduling software, like Inch, makes this process easy and gives you the power to assign, distribute, control, prioritize, and monitor every aspect of your team’s responsibilities whether they work on-site or off.

And, because all of the data is stored in the cloud, your nurses can access the task list you create on any device so that they always know what they need to do next and where they need to go to do it, regardless of where they are at the moment.

4) Time Clock

No nurse scheduling software would be complete without a built-in time clock that tracks both your team’s full workday and each individual’s time on task.

Modern software allows you to record total work hours and time spent on a specific activity during the workday and also makes it possible to:

  • Turn any phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer into a time clock and allow employees to clock in and clock out from anywhere
  • Set up geofencing so that team members are in the right place when they start and end their work
    Prevent early clock-ins and forgotten clock-outs
  • Reduce time theft
  • Export timesheets for simplified payroll processing
    Much more…

These features streamline the way you organize and manage your nursing staff so that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

5) Communication Tools

Communication is essential for coordinating the activities of your team — whether you oversee two nurses or 200.

To make this as user-friendly as possible, choose nurse scheduling software that includes communication tools that everyone can access.

Some of the more advanced apps, like Inch, make it easy to:

  • Send messages to group or individuals
  • Find and communicate with volunteers within groups, locations, and even specific positions or skill sets
  • Share files, photos, videos, and links for more complete communication

With these tools in hand, your team will work better than ever.

Select The Best Nurse Scheduling Software

The Best Nurse Scheduling Software

The best nurse scheduling software shouldn’t be complicated or expensive. Rather, it should give you everything you need to manage a team of any size (one to 100 or more) with just a few taps or clicks.

And it should give you the tools you need at a reasonable price (like free!).

Inch does all that and more.

Check it out today and find out why hospitals (and businesses of all types) large and small rely on our advanced software for all their workforce management needs.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate hours worked, visit today.

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