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What are rotating schedules and how can physician scheduling software help

Posted on 3/5/2014 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles
Shift scheduling is practically a given in most emergency rooms in the United States. And rotating schedules is one of the most popular used in this type of setting. However, rotating schedules have challenges beyond fixed schedules, including employee fatigue, inattentiveness, and frustrations relating to social and family life. What’s more, according to Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School, shift workers have the greatest risk for developing sleep debt over time.

Along with the time-consuming and cumbersome nature of shift scheduling, these are just a few of the important reasons why it is vital for administrators and managers who schedule emergency room physicians working a rotating schedule to incorporate a tool, such as physician schedule software, to minimize the drawbacks for employees who work rotating schedules.

What is a Rotating Schedule?

Simply put, a rotating shift schedule in an emergency department is a work schedule whereby a number of physicians work through various shifts throughout the 24 hour day. These rotating shifts may include morning shifts, day shifts, night shifts, weekend shifts, and swing shifts.

Goals of Managing a Rotating Schedule

The goals of managing a rotating schedule are several. First, it's important to distribute the frustration and stress of the least desirable shift (whether that’s the night shift, weekend shift, or swing shift) across the employee base so that no one person is “stuck” with the least desirable shift the majority of the time.

In addition, not only are there potential employee morale issues if rotating schedules are not managed attentively and equitably, there may be some health risks, including sleep deprivation and employee fatigue. Employee fatigue and sleep deprivation can lead to accidents while driving and mistakes in the emergency room.

Lastly, the nature of the emergency room itself is unpredictable. There are last minute changes and unexpected traumas that can occur on an almost daily basis, if not hourly. When working with a rotating schedule of physicians, the scheduler must take into consideration the years of experience of the physicians on a particular schedule, along with the skills and qualifications to ensure coverage is at least adequate for each and every shift.

What You Can Do?

If rotating schedules are a must in your emergency room, you can’t necessarily solve the problems inherent in their very nature. However, you can minimize their harm by utilizing physician scheduling software and incorporating a few strategies to make them more manageable, less frustrating to employees, and more beneficial to the emergency department at large.

1) Rotate schedules less frequently than weekly. Polls and studies suggest that many employees prefer fixed shift schedules over rotating schedules, so consider changing rotating schedules less frequently -- say every two weeks or longer, rather than weekly, may be highly beneficial.

2) Incorporate bright lights. This is important for employees who work the graveyard shift or even swing shift. While the emergency room is most likely equipped with bright lights, make sure the break room has them as well.

3) Have a nap room. For some people, a quick power nap of 10-15 minutes refreshes, renews, and reenergizes. This may be sorely needed for some emergency room physicians who work long, stress-filled hours.

4) Utilize physician scheduling software. The power of physician scheduling software has multiple benefits including avoiding over or understaffing, improving employee morale, reducing employee turnover, minimizing employee sleep deprivation, reducing scheduling time, and improving worker productivity.

Managing shift scheduling of emergency room physicians can be a daunting task for any manager or administrator. Fortunately, today there is advanced physician scheduling software that can make this challenging task a whole lot easier.

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