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Using a rule-based system for nurse scheduling

Posted on 4/17/2019 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles

Of all the industries where shift scheduling demands are very complex and involved, it’s the schedules for nurses that present schedulers many challenges.

Shift-work nurses often experience fatigue. Overtime and longer shifts are linked with increased patient errors and unappealing nurse health outcomes. A good way to help promote nurse health is through your scheduling practices and emergency medicine scheduling software can help make the task easier.

When working on your physician scheduling system, be sure you take into account healthy and unhealthy rules. Implementing a healthy scheduling system can help control things such as:


All over the country nurses are experiencing burnout. One study showed over 40 percent of staff nurses are so close to burnout and 25 percent of them said they expect to leave their jobs within the year.

Schedulers often schedule nurses based on the time between their shifts. When you create shifts for your nurses, you probably are looking at their last scheduled shift and when it ended and scheduling their next shift according to this. But, that can be a problem since nurses hardly ever end their shifts according to what the schedule says. They often end up working overtime.

This can lead to nurses not having enough time to recover in between their shifts. You should instead look at exactly when your nurses clock in and out of their shifts and schedule their next shift a little in advance to provide them with enough time to recover and become physically and mentally ready for their next long shift.

Unhealthy Shift Patterns

Creating work schedules can often involve a multitude of details like:

- Shift lengths
- Shift start times
- Spacing of shifts
- Unexpected and expected absenteeism
- Staff members' experience levels
- Skill mix
- Duration of shift breaks
- Scheduled hours per pay period

Often the way nurses are scheduled can create a potentially harmful environment for both the nurses and their patients. Take the prevalent practice of 12-hour shifts which are typically spaced together closely to shorten the work week. This can lead to serious fatigue. There are also relentless calls to work shift gaps created by an unexpected absenteeism. These are all things you should consider when creating the schedule.

Staff Preferences

Because we assume nurse satisfaction is linked with scheduling preferences and requests, you may want to assess the proportion of nurse preferences and requests the scheduling system is honoring.

While you can't convert this metric into a rule that permits all nurses' preferences and requests to be honored at all times and continue meeting patient needs, you can ask them to let you know about their availability preferences and store them in the scheduling system and take turns honoring preferences so your nurses will know you acknowledge them and you can still ensure adequate coverage for patient care.

To help create healthy rules so the schedule is balanced, fair and accurate, you should implement nurse scheduling software. Shift scheduling software helps streamline and optimize their staff scheduling and communication processes.

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