How To Handle Physician Scheduling In An Understaffed Department

Staffing shortages in healthcare organizations have been a concern for the past couple of years, made worse recently with burnout being on the rise among clinicians.

Having to schedule without the right amount of physicians, nurses, or advanced practitioners available makes the scheduler’s job that much more difficult.

How can schedulers alleviate the stress for both themselves and their clinical teams?

Keep track of clinicians on leave & how many locums are needed.

Often with staffing shortages, it’s because clinicians are on maternity leave, taking time off for health reasons, etc., although recently many have been retiring early because of burnout and there aren’t enough newly graduated clinicians to replace them.

Unlike the latter, though, you can actually keep track of how many team members are on temporary leave, and how many locums you’ll need to cover their shifts.

This doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to find and recruit the right locums for the job, of course, but having this information well-documented is important for making the best effort you can to staff as needed.

Note clinicians’ scheduling preferences.

Clinicians have multiple work- and family-related obligations outside of just normal shift time, and they may need certain days off each week or month. It’s not always easy to take these into account, but make note of them so that you can if possible.

This way, your clinicians have one less thing to worry about, even if the department is often understaffed.

Be somewhat familiar with your patient volume.

Data on your department’s patient volume, if available, can be invaluable. It will allow you to better utilize the clinicians you have for busier and slower times of day; if you manage to get a good grasp of this data, locums may not even be necessary.

Intrigma’s Efficient Optimizer. for example, creates a staffing model based on your department’s ability to meet patient arrival rates with current staff. From there, it estimates the potential financial impact on the department.

Use a comprehensive scheduling solution.

A great way to organize the information above, as well as to schedule your clinicians as efficiently as possible without burning them out, is by using a physician scheduling solution. This can be done by hand, but the last thing you need is more paper, emails, and spreadsheets to sort through.

Intrigma’s Efficient Scheduler tracks shifts and benefit time for all of your clinicians, removing the manual work of counting and recording.

If you’d like to apply preferences for time off, requests submitted by your clinicians can be easily prioritized and the system can be configured so that you cannot schedule someone to work on a day when they are consistently off without receiving a reminder.

Scheduling can make a huge difference, especially in high-stress departments. When the schedule is created to allow for a work-life balance among the clinicians, it may motivate everyone.


How do you handle scheduling in an understaffed department? Comment below!

Find out more about Efficient Works, our suite of physician scheduling and optimization platforms, below or contact our solutions specialists.

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