Desperate to trim your labor budget? Start with overtime.

Labor costs consume most of a healthcare organization’s operating budget, so when it’s time to reduce costs, that’s usually the first place to look for savings. In fact, nearly half (44%) of CFOs and executives say reducing labor expenses is their No. 1 priority, according to a joint survey from the Healthcare Financial Management Association and Navigant.

Yet, for many healthcare organizations, typical cost-cutting measures, like layoffs or widespread hour reductions, just aren’t possible because they’re already short-staffed. For years, the healthcare industry has been up against a pretty critical staffing shortage. A lack of nurses, which make up the largest segment of the health profession, is a big driver behind the shortage. So much so that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11 million additional nurses are needed to avoid a further shortage.

As a result, more nurses are working more overtime, as are physicians, mental health providers and support staff, and it’s pushing healthcare organizations’ labor budgets to the brink.

Overtime is a budget and quality killer

It’s simple math: In most cases, an hour of overtime costs more than a regular work hour, and an increase in overtime is undoubtedly contributing to the rise in labor costs. That’s why it has become a key metric for executives to monitor and why managers feel pressured to rein it in.

It makes sense to do so. Overtime is expensive and it’s been tied to employee fatigue and burnout, medical errors and lower patient satisfaction, all of which cost the organization in some way, even if it’s hard to quantify the losses. To look at it another way, it means your organization could be paying much more for lower quality work that could have a long-term impact on the bottom line.

All that said, decreasing your reliance on overtime is often the most effective way to drive down labor costs. That requires taking a closer look at scheduling practices, and more specifically, how overtime is being used – and misused.

Offer managers more visibility and insight to curb overtime

Sometimes overtime is unavoidable. Often, however, it is a mistake that occurs because managers don’t have real-time visibility into what’s happening within their departments. They’re working with spreadsheets or other outdated scheduling processes, and they’re making split-second decisions without much data to go on when staff calls off or a unit is full.

That’s where a tool like ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler can be invaluable, offering overtime management with real-time, pervasive staffing visibility. For example, with a few taps on any mobile device, a manager can immediately see which employees are already in or nearing overtime. That insight can help inform initial scheduling decisions, fill open shifts and even prioritize who to send home during a slow shift.

By tapping on the employee’s schedule, the user can drill down further and receive a breakdown of the employee’s shifts. In some cases, a shift that will push an employee into overtime may be on the schedule, but it hasn’t yet occurred. That offers managers an opportunity to find a replacement for any hours that exceed 40 before the employee racks up overtime.

Overall, it offers managers more control over their schedules and a simpler, quicker way to manage shifts.

Gain the insight required to address overtime misuse

With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, your managers have at their fingertips the data they need to make better staffing decisions and reduce costly overtime.

In addition, the executive team also benefits from in-depth overtime reports that break down both overtime hours and costs, by location or region, on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or year-to-date basis. That insight can allow you to pinpoint where overtime is costing too much, so you can troubleshoot the issue. Plus, the report will also forecast expenses for the next month, so you can proactively work with managers to reduce potential costs.

Keep overtime costs in check

With the highly affordable ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you gain the visibility and insight to dramatically reduce overtime.  If you want to see firsthand how much time ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler can save you, request a demo now.

CDC advice for managing a staffing shortage – and how ABILITY can help

Healthcare workers across the U.S. – many who thought the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was behind them – have been hit with a blast of harsh reality.

Hospitals in California, Texas, Florida and elsewhere are reporting shortages in equipment, drugs, beds and staff as the pandemic has spiked in some areas. Concerns abound that more waves could land in the fall, right as the annual flu season starts.

Healthcare workers on the front line, despite being more cautious and better equipped than the average citizen, are at high risk for contracting the virus. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), healthcare professionals account for 106,180 cases and 552 deaths. And those numbers don’t paint the full picture because, of the data collected, healthcare personnel status was only available for 21.6% of the subjects.

The CDC warns that healthcare organizations must be prepared for staffing shortages due to exposure to COVID-19, actual illness or to care for loved ones who become ill with the virus.

In healthcare, where staffing shortages already make shift management and adequate staff-to-patient ratios a challenge, more surges are bound to leave hospitals reeling.

To help healthcare organizations, the CDC has released Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages on its website. We highly recommend you read the full article, but here are some highlights.

Understand how many employees you must have

Know the minimum number of staff you need to provide high-quality care and a safe work environment. That is the benchmark for establishing your schedule for all doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff, including custodians and administrators.

With that as your baseline, you can then set up contingency plans in the event of a surge in your facility, for example, by:

  • Hiring additional healthcare professionals
  • Recruiting retirees, students or volunteers to be on call
  • Canceling elective procedures and visits and shifting personnel from those floors to support patient care in the ER or ICU

The goal here is to not wait until you are up against a shortage, but instead, prepare for a worst-case scenario. That starts by understanding your most basic staffing needs and having steps in place before a shortage occurs.

How do busy healthcare leaders track it all?

A previous post examined how the pandemic is complicating credential tracking, as states waive requirements and help comes from retirees, students, volunteers, ex-healthcare staff whose licenses have expired and out-of-state professionals.

COVID-19 is creating the same challenges for staffing.

Think about it: What if three ICU nurses called off sick one hour before a shift? What if several hospital custodians went on strike because they weren’t receiving adequate PPE? What if the on-call ER physician is a no-show? Or half of your ER registrars had to quarantine?

Do the managers who oversee those employees have the information they need to find replacements quickly and efficiently?

For many organizations, that is a “No.” Healthcare leaders and managers don’t have the broad visibility or context to make quick staffing decisions on a “normal” day – much less during a crisis. They can spend hours poring over spreadsheets and making calls to find replacements.

Add in an influx of on-call volunteers or new hires and the complexity grows. And if your organization has no other choice but to allow employees with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to work, scheduling that person so that they can treat patients that meet the CDC’s criteria is a logistical nightmare. That’s a detail that you would need to consider and track as you create the schedule and fill open shifts.

ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler enables you to act fast

With the deep visibility and intelligence you gain from ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you can better meet the needs of your patients and staff now and long after you’ve recovered from the pandemic:

  • Gain instant access to schedule data – across your organization – from any device
  • Manage staff-to-patient ratios with a quick-look staffing grid through predictive analytics
  • Communicate schedule changes and shift needs to staff without picking up a phone
  • Avoid overstaffing and overtime by gaining an eagle-eye view of the hours each employee has worked with a highly intuitive dashboard
  • Pinpoint costly inefficiencies, such as scheduling over budget and paying for hours not met, with permissions-based control and visibility

Plus, check out the rest of ABILITY’s suite of mobile applications that take the work out of workforce management:

  • Allow staff to clock in from their phones, approve timecards and track staff punches with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Attendance
  • Collect, organize and track licenses and certifications with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer
  • Manage physician and clinical schedules, view open shifts and track commitments with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Physician

All our applications are affordable and easy to deploy and use. Upgrade how you manage your workforce by contacting our sales team at 888-552-4049.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY®, ABILITY SMARTFORCE® and Credentialer® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How COVID complicates credential tracking – and what you can do to remain compliant

It seems like eons since the first case of COVID appeared in the U.S. – even though it was only January. Since, we’ve been on a bit of roller coaster ride, as states have experienced peaks in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. While some locations are experiencing downward trends, or at least remaining steady in all three areas, others are seeing a second surge, and many states are tightening restrictions and facing further shutdowns.

To help manage the public health threat, states loosened mandates on nurse credentialing and licensing. Response has varied by state, including waiving state requirements and regulations for RNs, LPNs and NPs so those who held unrestricted licenses within a specific time frame could temporarily reactivate their licenses without taking any test or paying fees. Additionally, healthcare professionals have been permitted to work in a state without being required to obtain a license in that state.

For some organizations, volunteers from other states, students, retirees or others who left the profession are working again, alongside existing staff, They all have different licensing and credential requirements and expiration dates.

Realities of licensing testing also complicate matters

Adding to the challenge is that many healthcare licensing testing sites are temporarily closed, and of those that are open, many are operating at half the capacity. Others have switched to an electronic format. For many employees, especially those in areas with limited testing sites or for those who don’t have easy access to the internet or a PC, scheduling a certification or recertification can be difficult, if not impossible.

Tracking licenses and credentials has become more complicated than ever

Regulations and licensing testing challenges are part of the problem. The other is simply prioritization. Many organizations have been in survival mode, doing whatever it takes to care for patients. It’s easy to forget about your CPR recertification, for example, when you are fighting to save people’s lives.

For organizational leaders and managers, it’s a troublesome situation. Because while some requirements in your state may be waived now and for the short term, at some point, those mandates will tighten again and you’ll need the visibility and intelligence to ensure everyone is up to date as quickly as possible – or face costly penalties.

Reduce compliance concerns with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer

With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer, a cloud-based application that you can access from any device, you and your staff can organize licenses, certifications and in-services in one secure, intuitive dashboard.

Plus, both you and staff members will receive alerts when a certification is up for renewal, so you dramatically decrease the number of lapsed credentials in your organization.

With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer, you can easily track these vital certifications:

  • State licenses
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
  • EMT
  • CPR
  • Advance Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
  • Handle With Care (Behavioral Management System on how to care for patients with autism and behavioral challenges)
  •  N95 mask fitting
  • Tuberculosis test
  • Flu test
  • Driver’s license
  • New CMS COVID training

If you want to prevent lapsed credentials, we can help. Don’t wait until the mandates tighten to find that you aren’t in compliance. Gain the visibility and intelligence you need now to keep staffing credentials current. Learn more about the highly affordable ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer or see it for yourself by signing up for a free demo.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and Credentialer® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Reducing the high cost of overtime

With so much attention on data – from strategies and ownership to data centralization, integration, mining and ethics  – it can be easy to overlook the power of simple data sets. Staffing decisions have significant financial implications, and because overtime is one of the more visible drains on healthcare budgets, it tends to get the most attention.

However, for most healthcare managers, preventing overtime is a massive challenge. If overtime data is sitting in a report somewhere, managers don’t have real-time access to that data when they need to make a quick decision.

Even if you are doing an outstanding job of collecting and maintaining staff data, it may not be enough to reduce overtime and the associated costs. Healthcare managers must have easy access to meaningful data – at the moment they are making staffing decisions.

Solving the overtime conundrum

Overtime occurs because of two reasons: the decision maker didn’t know the person would go into overtime or the decision maker knew about the overtime and made the decision anyway.

While setting policies on overtime use and approval processes can help reduce overtime, a better solution is to make readily available the tools and data necessary for informed staffing decisions.

Something as simple as displaying an alert that an employee is or will be in overtime prompts decision makers to look for other options. Assessing those options can be quicker and more efficient with an Avoidable Overtime function, like the one that is integrated into ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler. The feature displays other qualified staff members who aren’t at risk of going into overtime, so the manager can make a quick, informed decision.

Consider the difference:

John is a manager in the ICU, and he is looking at the staffing for the next shift. He has had two admissions and the unit is busy. He has his hands full and the evening shift is short one RN.

  • Scenario 1: John asks one of the nurses from the day shift to stay over. Expensive, but efficient.
  • Scenario 2: John opens his iPad and instantly sees staffing for his unit showing that he is down an RN. With one tap, he gets a view of staffing in the other ICUs and sees that none of them have extra staff to offer. He taps back to his shift and receives a list of available nurses. Two of the three have an indicator letting him know that they would be in overtime if selected. He taps on the third and instantly sends a text offering her the shift.

In the second scenario, John had easy access to the data he needed to make a cost effective decision, including:

  • Visibility into other units that are staffed with the same skill type he needed
  • Who was available
  • Who was in overtime
  • Who last called off
  • Seniority

Plus, he could contact a nurse to fill the open shift, all in a matter of seconds. That data enables John to manage overtime costs, while also allowing him to be fair and in compliance with the seniority policy. He also minimizes risk by avoiding having a fatigued nurse giving care.

With the availability and affordability of staffing applications on the market, you simply can’t justify staffing practices that are not supported by data. So, if you are still using paper-based scheduling, spreadsheets or outdated staffing technologies, contact us today to learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, a cloud-based application that streamlines staffing and provides you with instant access to the data you need to make the right decision fast.

To see it in action, request a demo now.

 

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Improve staff-manager relationships with collaborative scheduling

A healthy relationship between staff members and their manager can positively impact turnover rates, vacancy rates, percentage of sick calls, quality of work and staff satisfaction scores.

With so much at stake, it is critical that healthcare leaders make it a priority to foster strong relationships with their employees. That can be daunting for busy leaders who already feel like they don’t have enough time to cover their duties and focus on quality of care.

However, improving your relationship with your staff might be simpler than you think. In fact, here are ways that a scheduling application can support healthy staff-manager relationships.

Encouraging respectful communication

Eliminating all those phone calls asking staff to work saves time and honors employees’ personal lives. With the right scheduling application, you can notify staff of an open shift with a single tap, and they can just as easily respond if they are available to work.

Staying connected on the go

You no longer need to be at home or near a computer to know what’s going on. With healthcare scheduling applications, you and employees can see up-to-date schedules, receive notifications of open shifts, swap shifts or read announcements – on your mobile device from anywhere.

Promoting participation

When you and your employees have full visibility into your staffing needs, employees are empowered to engage in the scheduling process. Staff members are more likely to fill open shifts when they can easily see what is needed and then volunteer without dealing with a bunch of red tape. That saves you so much time. 

Offering flexibility

Enabling staff to swap shifts with other qualified staff allows them to self-manage life situations or changes that come up. They don’t have to explain their circumstances to their managers, who simply review and approve shift swap requests as they appear. That offers employees some control over their shifts, which can improve job satisfaction. 

Enabling managers to focus on what’s important

Simplifying scheduling and getting staff more involved frees your time to support staff and build a positive culture. It also allows you to spend more time with patients and ensure an overall high quality of care.

It’s easier than you think to adopt cloud-based scheduling. In fact, many solutions don’t require any IT help, and all maintenance and upgrades are taken care of for you. Plus, all that can be bundled into simple monthly pricing that is very affordable and has no hidden costs or surprises.

If you are ready to support a healthier work environment, take advantage of next-generation scheduling solutions. Learn more now.

 

 

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Visibility and access are key to making strong, data-driven decisions

Data-driven or evidence-based decision-making is a must in today’s world of staffing and scheduling. We use data to inform decisions, track the impact of decisions, defend decisions, and identify ways to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.

The challenge for most of us has always been that the data required to make the right decisions is rarely easily accessible when we need it. When it comes to scheduling, it is not realistic to expect staff managers to make quick, accurate data-driven decisions when the data is buried in email, paper reports and filing cabinets.

The good news: technology can put that data at your fingertips

Scheduling applications are designed to expand visibility into key data right at that moment when decisions are made.

The following types of information can be available instantly:

  • Overtime amounts
  • Seniority
  • Date last called off or on
  • License expiration
  • Over-/under-staffing
  • Missed clock-ins

Additionally, with just a tap, you can drill down into more detail. That level of visibility into the data you are already collecting during day-to-day activities enables leaders to make quicker, smarter decisions and improve consistency, fairness, quality and the bottom line.

The right data at the right place and time

These days, most people are inundated with data, and they don’t know how to apply it or use it to improve their decisions. When you evaluate scheduling applications, don’t just consider how much data you’ll receive. Instead, make sure you have the right data, displayed in the right places. It’s ideal to have all the data you need to reference on the same screen where you are actually making staffing decisions. It’s just a more efficient, productive, less error-prone way to work.

For example, when you’re making a choice between three qualified staff members, you will make the best decision if you can easily see relevant information right next to their names:

  • How many hours they have already worked
  • Who is in overtime
  • Who called off last
  • What their seniority is
  • What their pay rate is
  • Their skills and credentials

Well-designed and modern staff scheduling software offers that functionality, empowering you to make quicker, smarter decisions.

ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler is a cloud-based application that streamlines staffing and enables you to manage and update your schedule from your phone.

To see it in action, request a demo of ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler now.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Skipping meals and bathroom breaks: Are your nurses putting their health at stake?

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nurses rise to the challenge during times of crisis. For months, we’ve heard heroic stories of nurses playing pivotal roles in the pandemic response and going the extra mile to care for hospitalized patients.

In the Year of the Nurse, we’re all witnessing just how vital nurses are to public health. We’re also learning about the sacrifices they make every day. While those sacrifices may be front and center right now, they are nothing new.

Nurses have always put others’ needs ahead of their own, but issues such as the nursing shortage are increasing the selflessness. Many nurses can’t escape patient-care duties at all during long shifts, and it’s impacting their mental, emotional and physical health. They skip meals – and even delay bathroom breaks – because they are so busy caring for patients.

So, it’s no surprise that the leading causes of nurse fatigue are: excessive workloads (60%); being unable to take lunch and dinner breaks during a shift (42%); and not being able to take any breaks during a shift (41%), according to the Workforce Institute. The fatigue is so pervasive, that nearly a third of nurses have called off sick just to get some rest, according to that same study.

A big chunk of our nursing population is, quite frankly, overworked.

Taking a toll on nurses’ physical and mental health

Aside from the obvious health problems of denying the body food, drink and trips to the restroom, working without any kind of relief from patient responsibility is terrible for mental and emotional health.

In fact, according to a recent study,15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout and 41% felt unengaged, and as the data we noted earlier suggests, a lack of breaks contributes to that.

Everyone, even unflappable nurses, need a bit of stress relief during long shifts. Those who don’t get it are more likely to get sick, suffer burnout or leave their job for a better situation elsewhere.

Patient care is also at risk

Mistakes and safety issues increase, and patient satisfaction scores drop as a result of an overwhelmed, overworked nursing staff. While most nurses battle through it and continue to provide adequate care, some don’t.

It’s a basic truth that exhausted, stressed and burned out nurses cannot provide the same quality of care as ones who are rested, regardless their skill level or commitment to the job.

Make breaks part of your culture

Each of your nurses should have a 15-minute break for roughly every four hours on the job, according to industry standards.

So, what can you do to ensure your nursing staff is taking those much-needed breaks? Follow these tips:

Tell them to. You are the boss, and they will follow your lead. Remind them of your polices and explain why 10 to 15 minutes of downtime is critical to their job performance. Most important: Never make them feel guilty for needing a break.
Relieve them. As the nurse manager, be ready to step in as needed so that nurses can take breaks.
Create a renewal space. Cancer Treatment Centers of America® at Midwestern Regional Medical Center created a quiet space that offers aromatherapy, music therapy, a massage chair and other stress tamers. It’s been so successful that the administration approved the creation of several more spaces. Look for an area, such as your break room, that you can convert into a relaxing space.
Adopt better staffing processes. When you are understaffed, nurses can’t take breaks. Adopting a nurse scheduling solution, such as ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, helps to ensure you have enough staff scheduled and that you can quickly find replacements for unexpected and last-minute call offs.

To learn more, watch this video.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

The three priorities nursing leaders should have for the rest of the year

This year has been a roller coaster so far, with influenza and COVID-19 wreaking havoc in healthcare facilities across the country and world.

While many of us may still be in recovery – or even survival – mode it’s important to not lose sight of the longer-term goals for your team and organization.

Nurse job satisfaction

If you want high quality of care, your nurses’ overall satisfaction with their job is vital. It’s easy to see that happier nurses are going to offer a better patient experience than ones who are miserable. And the research backs it up.

The American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) collects information from U.S. hospitals to help healthcare organizations pinpoint areas for improvement. Using that data, researchers have found a direct link between nurses’ job satisfaction and patient outcomes. For example, they noted that a 25% increase in nurse job enjoyment over two years was linked to a quality of care increase between 5% and 20%.

That job satisfaction quotient may be particularly challenging right now. After months of turmoil and stress, with potentially more to come, don’t forget to check in on your nurses to find out how they’re holding up. Schedule one-on-one meetings to talk things through and evaluate how they are doing.

However, the biggest key to job satisfaction is improving staffing and nurse scheduling, especially when it to comes to nurse-patient ratios and helping nurses preserve their work/life balance. Learn how ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler can help with both.

Turnover

Turnover has a direct link to job satisfaction. If nurses are unhappy, they are more likely to quit.

In 2019, we saw the turnover rate for bedside RNs decrease 1.3% and it stands at 15.9% right now, according to the 2020 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report. While a dip in turnover is certainly good news, it’s still too high and the cost can be devastating.

In fact, according to the same report, the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $44,400 and, ranges from $33,300 to $56,000. For the average hospital, we’re talking about losses in the $3.6 to $6.1 million range. Most can’t sustain that. Besides, we’re already facing a nursing shortage as it is, and you can’t afford to lose good people.

Again, after prolonged upheaval and stress, many of your nurses could be thinking about quitting or even leaving the profession altogether. Prioritizing their job satisfaction is critical to keeping them onboard.

Training and nurse development

Developing staff is one of the smartest ways to both retain nurses and attract new ones. It’s also a way to increase the overall skill sets and value of your staff. With every skill they learn, they improve your organization’s ability to provide a high quality of care.

It’s critical to provide in-house training and development programs to keep their clinical skills fresh. However, also provide training that goes beyond that. Training in communication, conflict resolution and leadership makes nurses more capable in their current roles, while also preparing them for future management and leadership roles.

The challenge is often creating the time for them to take training on top of long shifts. Still, it’s important to do so, if you want the best and brightest nurses working for you.

To see firsthand how you can improve your staffing process, request a demo of ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How to tell nurses they can’t have the day off

Nurses work hard and they deserve a break. That’s why it can be especially troubling when you have to deny them a weekend or holiday off. Or when you can’t accommodate a last-minute shift change request.

Your inability to do so is understandable. You’ve spent hours – or days – creating the perfect nurse schedule, and any change is hard to accommodate. You must prevent overtime, ensure fairness across your staff, and make sure you have the right people with the right experience and skills assigned to every shift. Those types of decisions are hard to make quickly, and it often is just easier to deny any changes.

The problem with saying “No”

Each time you deny a time-off request, you’re taking a chance that nurses call off sick anyway. If you say “No” enough, some nurses may generally stop asking for shift changes and time off, and instead, go straight to calling off sick. Ultimately, you are left short-staffed.

Fortunately, most nurses won’t do either, because they are committed to their jobs, their employer and their patients, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it. Regularly denying nurses more work/life balance and control over their schedule leads to burnout and lowered morale, both of which are leading causes of turnover.

Set ground rules to curb the problem

Establishing policies and putting a structure in place will limit the amount of inappropriate time-off requests you receive, while also enabling you to plan and schedule more effectively.

For example, clearly explain to staff:
How to submit a time-off request or shift change. Do you want them to speak to you in person? Send an email? Text?
How far in advance employees should request time off. Many nurse managers are completing their schedules two, three and four weeks in advance sometimes. Let employees know how much notice they need to give you for planned vacations, events and appointments.
How often staff can request time off or swap shifts. Think about your circumstances and what you could reasonably accommodate.
What constitutes emergencies for last-minute call offs. Nursing is one of those professions that is always on call. However, there are situations, like personal illness or injury, or the illness, injury or death of a loved one that warrant time off. Absences to attend a party, concert or some other event aren’t legitimate emergencies. Make it clear what you consider an actual emergency.

What to say when you can’t say “Yes”

Unfortunately, no matter how much you want to accommodate all your nurses’ time-off needs, sometimes you just won’t be able to do so. Follow these tips to take the sting out of your “No.”

Be direct, honest – and respectful. How you say “No” is critically important, so be direct when you deny the request, but do it without being curt, rude or hostile. For example, “I reviewed the schedule, and I can’t give you tomorrow off.”
Offer a quick reason, but don’t blame anyone. Explaining the situation often makes your decision easier to stomach. For example, “The floor is full, and without you, we will be short staffed.” Avoid the urge to point fingers at another nurse for this or that, as that just breeds resentment.
Let them respond. Give them a chance to express their disappointment, but don’t let it turn into an argument. If the discussion becomes heated, you can say, “Let’s take a break and discuss the policies regarding time-off requests tomorrow.”
Empathize with them. Having a request turned down feels awful, especially when you are a hard worker. Acknowledge that and explain you will do everything in your power to ensure you can meet their next request.
Show your gratitude. If they accept your denial graciously, let them know how much you appreciate it. Even if they show some frustration, tell them you appreciate the hard work they do every day.

Turn your “No” into a “Yes” with help from ABILITY

Outdated scheduling processes could be making it impossible for you to grant more time-off requests, especially those urgent last-minute ones.

With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you gain complete control over nurse scheduling and can more easily manage changes.
• See at a glance who is available to cover a shift – keeping overtime, seniority, last called off or credential expirations in mind.
• Empower staff to easily make PTO requests, volunteer for open shifts or swap shifts as needed.
• Fill open shifts caused by sick calls and no-shows in minutes – without making one call.

You won’t be able to satisfy every request, but you can make your scheduling process more efficient so you can say “Yes” more often. Learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc

3 proven ways to show nurses appreciation

Being a nurse is a hard, often thankless job – and with the World Health Organization (WHO) designating 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife – we want to do our part to help you show your nurses how much you appreciate them.

How are you showing your appreciation?

Ask 10 nurse managers the No. 1 way they show their employees appreciation, and you will probably get 10 different answers.

Managers often believe they’re doing enough simply by saying “Thank you.” Others buy food and treats for their teams or send them gifts. Some hospitals have elaborate rewards and point systems.

All those things can work to some degree. However, what most nurses want – and need – to feel truly valued has much more to do with the culture of your workplace and your effectiveness as a leader.

If you really want to show your appreciation, start here:

Create more work/life balance

Nursing is a challenging, emotionally draining job, and nurses need time to get away from it all and refresh.

Master your staffing process so that you can avoid erratic schedules and overtime. Plan carefully so all your nurses can take vacations. Do your best to accommodate them when they request days off.

A nurse scheduling application can be a game changer in this regard, because it will grant you and your team more visibility and enable quicker and easier shift management.

Grant nurses more control and autonomy

Studies have shown that a lack of control at work is a significant cause of stress. Nurses are carrying so much stress anyway, and on top of that, so much of their time at work is unpredictable. They can’t control how many patients come in or the severity of their illnesses or injuries. However, to take care of patients, they must follow policies and processes to a T.

Offering them more control when possible can be a mental and emotional booster, and a clear-cut area where you can do that involves the schedule.

Many organizations are offering self-scheduling for nurses. However, even if you aren’t ready to commit to that route, you can enable them to volunteer for shifts and swap shifts as needed.

Offer real-time feedback

For praise or constructive feedback to be meaningful, it must happen in the moment, not days, weeks or months later.

When you see someone struggling or you catch a mistake, offer guidance immediately. Few things are worse than finding out months down the road, like at the annual evaluation, that your performance was lacking all along. Help them improve by offering support and guidance when they need it.

On the flip side, when you catch nurses doing something great, tell them right then and there. And enable your nurses to commend one another. In-the-moment and peer-to-peer recognition is more impactful and motivates nurses to keep up the good work.

One tool, three ways to show your appreciation

ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler is a cloud-based application that streamlines nurse staffing and supports a stronger workplace culture.
1. Manage and update your schedule from your phone, to ensure shifts are always covered – and nurses receive much-deserved time off.
2. Empower nurses to request time off, volunteer for open shifts and swap shifts with one another.
3. Use the Shout Outs feature to recognize employees in real time.

To see it in action, request a demo of ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler now.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.