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Considerations for physician scheduling in the ER

Posted on 10/29/2015 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles
Physician scheduling is no simple task, especially in workplaces where shifts have to be scheduled every day of the week, 24 hours each day; emergency rooms of hospitals, for example. A common issue with generating a fair schedule is that it needs to satisfy fitting complicated rules, which many cannot. In order to handle the everyday rhythm of physicians and other staff, it’s crucial that when coming up with shift scheduling, these considerations are taken into account.


Good emergency medicine scheduling is essential when it comes to scheduling ER physicians. It needs to satisfy all the requests the physician has as far as specific shift timing, type of work to be done, sequencing of shifts, time off and so forth.

Supply and Demand

When it comes to issues with physician scheduling, there are two common constraints. To guarantee minimum coverage, there has to be a variety and sufficient number of shifts staffed throughout the scheduling scope. Also, according to their seniority, outside responsibilities, full or part time status and planned vacations, a given physician is not available all the time.


While shift scheduling, all shifts (evening, night, weekend) of the same type have to be fairly distributed among physicians who have the same experience level. Physicians who have over four years of experience may be scheduled and work the same amount of night shifts during a six month scheduling period. They should not work over five weekend shifts inside a 4-week period, for instance. It’s up to you to make the rules that are fair for all physicians, while physician scheduling software can implement these “rules”.


There are other rules that will ensure a specific quality level when it comes to schedules and can be insisted on by a certain individual or all the staff. This includes:

  • Reducing permanent nighttime shifts.
  • Avoiding short periods of time off between two consecutive shifts (no less than 11 hours).
  • Shift systems should include some free weekends with a minimum of a couple consecutive days off.
  • Preferred forward rotations (evening shifts following day shifts, night shifts following evening shifts).
  • A minimum number of hours must be set for rest and sleep between two consecutive shifts.

Psychological Effects

After working a three night shift sequence for example, does the physician have a minimum of three days off? During a four week period, does the physician work more than three night shifts? Burnout is a very real issue with physicians in emergency room departments, and must be taken into careful consideration. Time-off, vacations and holidays should be planned in advance — and honored, and emergency medicine software can help with that.

To help with emergency medicine scheduling, many scheduling administrators use physician scheduling software to address the concerns above. This type of software automates the process which minimizes the need for manual scheduling. This ensures fair scheduling, as well as having adequate staffing for patient demands and superior care.

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