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Considerations when implementing rotating schedules for healthcare providers

Posted on 3/28/2018 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles

As a scheduling administrator in an emergency medicine environment, you know how challenging physician scheduling can be. And, this is especially the case with rotating schedules. 

Rotational shift work is a scheduling system where your doctors, nurses, and other staff members work through a cycle of day and night shifts and often swing shifts when necessary.

Productivity and safety are two huge concerns with rotating shifts. To ensure proper patient care and safety, your doctors need to have enough rest time between their shifts. When you over-schedule your doctors and they aren't getting the rest they need, it can affect patient safety (i.e. not giving them the proper care, misdiagnosing them, etc.). Also, shorter shifts can reduce doctor burnout and increase productivity.

Burnout has been associated with numerous problems such as:

- Emotional problems
- Physical illness
- Absenteeism
- Poor job performance
- Increased turnover
- Negative attitudes overall

Furthermore, burnout can also affect patient care quality.

However, finding the right shift scheduling rotational system for your ER or other healthcare facility is difficult. And, things can get confusing. A few considerations you may want to take while producing rotating schedules are:

1. Schedule a Team of Doctors to One of Four Rotational Shift Schedules

This type of rotating schedule works on a two-week rotation, meaning each team of doctors will work a certain two-week shift before switching. You'll rotate each team through all four shift schedules every few weeks.

2. Provide the Chance for Rest

Each person has their own internal clock known as their circadian rhythm. Shift work can disrupt this circadian rhythm. Since staff members adjust better to shifts when moving their sleep forward instead of backward in time, you should rotate shifts forward days to afternoons to nights.

You need to provide each doctor a rest period that's at minimum 24 hours long after they've worked a set of night shifts before you change them to days. Give them more time off for rest the longer they work nights before scheduling their next shift rotation. This allows them to adjust their sleep patterns.

3. Use Emergency Medicine Scheduling Software

When you're working with rotating schedules, avoiding under- or over-scheduling can be a balancing act. By using physician scheduling software, you can manage rotating shifts much easier. The software can use skill codes, doctor pay rates and availability to generate a rotating schedule that's both cost effective and balanced.

The software will also assist in monitoring absences and ensure your staff members are following attendance policies. It can also ensure fairness so your doctors have the chance to get the rest they need and avoid burnout. With shift scheduling software, you can generate complicated shifts much quicker than you would manually.

While it can be difficult to avoid rotating schedules in the fast-paced emergency medicine environment, you don't have to try and figure it all out yourself. Physician scheduling software is the perfect tool to ensure an accurate, fair and productive rotating schedule.

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