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The importance of effective physician and nurse intensive care scheduling in the ICU

Posted on 5/20/2015 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles
Fewer areas of a hospital face more constant need for the monitoring and managing of patient health than the ICU. Higher level decisions must be made about patient care with great frequency making it critical for effective physician scheduling and shift scheduling of nurses.

It’s not simply a matter of ensuring that you have adequate personnel on hand, but that the personnel you do have, is up to the demands of their roles in making life and death decisions regarding patient care. These are some of the issues you must consider when planning emergency medicine scheduling for your ICU staff.

Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

Shift work disorder is a condition that occurs when the body’s clock and the work schedule are out of sync. In hospital environments, this is a common condition among members of staff who have constantly switching work hours.

Symptoms of SWD include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Personal Relationship Difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Unproductive Sleep
All of which can have a significant impact on effectiveness of medical staff in the ICU.

Fatigue Factor

Another problem to consider when scheduling staff for the ICU is fatigue. If you don’t allow enough time to pass between shifts for nurses or physicians to get at least eight hours of sleep, it can greatly reduce their ability to make life-saving decisions that are often necessary in the ICU.

Medical staff who fail to get an adequate amount of sleep due to their schedules at work jeopardize patient safety – something no hospital or medical facility wants to have happen.

The last thing you want is to have decision making physicians and nurses with compromised abilities to make these decisions due to fatigue or exhaustion.

Simple Solutions for Effective Scheduling

While the problem seems complex, there are some simple solutions for the problem. Start by creating policies that promote adequate sleep among staff members.

Consider seeking ways to create more stable shift planning and scheduling among physicians and nurses or look for ways to ease transitions, such as rotating a full cycle of morning shifts, followed by swing shifts, and then graveyard shirts rather than mixing them up within a shorter schedule.

Consider reducing shift lengths in the ICU. Consecutive 12-hour shifts often result in fewer hours of sleep between them, 6.79 hours for day shifts and only 5.68 hours of sleep between consecutive 12-hour night shifts. Reduce shifts to ten hours for those who have short commutes and eight hours for those with longer commutes to and from work in order to promote restful sleep.

To make things intensive care scheduling easier and accommodate the new ICU shift policies, make the move to shift scheduling software. The change will save hours of time spent creating the schedule each week, while also incorporating the new shift lengths seamlessly into the scheduling rotation for physician scheduling and nurse scheduling in eight or 10-hour shifts.

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