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Implementing Physician Rotating Schedules

Posted on 3/11/2015 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles
Rotating schedules have many benefits for patients, for healthcare managers, and those doing the physician scheduling. But it can be tough on a doctor who is trying to find the right balance for his career and personal life.

Shift work is a fact of life for a quarter of the American labor force, and one that affects many people in medicine. Working late shifts and working rotating shifts each have pros and cons for the employee.

Balancing the needs of patients, the requirements of those handing the shift scheduling, especially the emergency medicine scheduling, and the calls for work/life balance on the part of physicians is hard work. The person in charge of scheduling often feels like a juggler.

Here is a look at the pros and cons of rotating shifts, and ways of make the experience easier on everyone.

Pros of Rotating Shifts

For the employer and the staffing scheduler, rotating shifts make it much simpler to ensure the right balance of skills and experience for all three shifts in a healthcare facility. It means that each member of the team gets the same chance for training and contact with daytime management, the group that has the most influence on rules and regulations.

It ensures that each physician has a chance to engage with suppliers and essential personnel, instead of limiting this to doctors on a fixed daytime schedule.

For the employer, it can be most efficient to have the same person on one shift on a regular basis. She knows how to handle the job and the equipment, gets along with the other personnel or has the experience that is essential for the precise requirements of that shift in a specific department.

Cons of Rotating Shifts

From the employee’s point of view, it is much more difficult to organize a personal life when your shift constantly is changing from daytime to swing shift to night shift. It can be hard on families, especially those with children.

Sleep and fatigue are common complaints from doctors whose schedules keep changing. This is compounded by the disruption of a person’s circadian rhythm. This has been linked to numerous health concerns, including increased risk of breast cancer in women and greater chances of becoming obese.

Rating the Disruption

It is hard for researchers to come up with conclusive data about the effects of rotating shifts. Studies are done on groups that are too mixed to get a handle on. The individuals are not alike in essentials like marital status, children, type of work done, ability to choose a shift freely, and ability to get to sleep after each shift.

Some studies have indicated that rotating shifts result in less fatigue than night shift workers on a fixed schedule. Other studies indicate that rotating shifts have more accidents than fixed shifts.

Ways to Mitigate the Problem

One method of making it easier on physicians with rotating schedules is to offer staggered shifts. This means doctors can alternate the number of hours they are scheduled to work, some more than average and some less.

Those on a rotating shift do better if they stick to a schedule on days off that is consistent with their workday. This can be hard if they have a family, but it lessens fatigue and increases alertness.

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