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Tips to optimize your summer emergency physician schedule

Posted on 3/18/2020 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles

Summer is a time when most physicians spend time with family, take vacations, and de-stress — all which help to reduce burnout. But, it's also the time of year when the emergency medicine scheduling process can be a complete nightmare if you're not prepared for handling your ER department's influx of time-off requests.

A lack of effective scheduling policies and planning for summer vacation requests can make it virtually impossible to coordinate physician supply and patient demand. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place for summer ER physician scheduling before the summer hits.

There are several tactics to avoid summer shift scheduling chaos that accommodate doctors' much-needed breaks and create balance. These include:

- Use last year's information to determine patient demand
- Incentivize shifts during high patient volume times
- Coordinate doctors' summer schedules earlier

Ways to Optimize your Summer Physician Scheduling

1. Request Physician's Scheduling Preferences

Many ER doctors crave and deserve work-life balance, just like anybody else. Without it, they can become burned out easily. This is why it's crucial you incorporate their preferences as much as you can into the emergency medicine schedule. It's vital to doctor productivity as well as retention. Of course, you can't accommodate every preference a physician has, but you should make it a point to try and accommodate when you can.

2. Implement a Strategy

There are various strategies you can implement to reduce the nightmare of summer scheduling and maintain fairness. An important component is being consistent with one particular strategy over time and ensuring you establish expectations way before putting out the summer schedule.

3. Communicate With the Team

While scheduling is your responsibility, it's important you still communicate with your doctors. The summer schedule can become confrontational, but holding one or two meetings beforehand should help make a difference. If your department has a set policy in regards to summer scheduling, arrange a meeting with the physicians to ensure each agrees with it or at a minimum, understands it.

4. Implement Emergency Physician Schedule Software

A great way of making sure there's a good balance between patient demand and physician schedules and that summer shift schedules can accommodate this is by using ER department scheduling software. There are numerous benefits of using this software, including:

- Balance doctor, patient and department needs
- Distribute work fairly across doctors
- Access up-to-date, centralized schedules
- Decrease the time you spend building and managing the schedules

5. Publish Your Schedule Early

Since you need to take planned summer vacations into account in the scheduling process, you should make sure you post it in advance. This will provide enough time for any last-minute conflicts to be resolved before the shifts go into effect.

It will also help you avoid a situation where a doctor pays for a vacation before their request is received, forcing you to not be able to accommodate it, but they refuse to cancel the trip. Publishing the schedule early might save you both the unwanted conversation you know you'll have to have in this case. 

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