How Better Scheduling Can Keep Nurses Safe and Satisfied

How Better Scheduling Can Keep Nurses Safe and Satisfied

Keeping nurses happier and safer should be the top priority for healthcare managers who want to retain their best employees.

It’s hard to deny that being a nurse is one of the most stressful and difficult occupations in America today. The obligations that come with this profession can be incredibly taxing on an individual.

Every day a nurse comes into work, he or she is responsible for the safety and well-being of others. And as if the amount of physical and mental stress that an average nurse has to endure isn’t difficult enough, the demands of the job are further multiplied by the fact that a majority of nurses all over the country and world are required to work incredibly long, often rotating shifts.

Any job would be difficult to perform to the best of your abilities when you are entering the 12th hour of your shift, but for nurses, this is something that has unfortunately become the rule rather than the exception.

The biggest problem is, unfortunately, the lack of available nurses. The stress of the job coupled with the constant scarcity of qualified workers seems to have created an unbreakable cycle in the healthcare industry that has led to nurses having to cover long and often unpredictable shifts with no clear solution in sight.

And while it’s going to take a lot more than good scheduling to fix the problems of the nursing industry, finding a way to create better and more efficient schedules is a good start for at least assuaging some of the difficulties that nurses encounter at their places of work.

Keeping nurses happier, safer and more satisfied should be the top priority for any healthcare manager looking to retain his or her best nurses. Here’s how creating and implementing a quality scheduling processes can help.

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is a very legitimate concern for nurses all over the country. According to this recent study, more than 40 percent of staff nurses are on the verge of burnout and 25 percent of the nurses polled claimed that they expect to leave their jobs at the hospital within the year.

Nurses are often scheduled according to the time between their shifts. When creating shifts for nurses, management looks at when the last scheduled shift ended for that nurse, and schedules the next one according. The problem is that nurses rarely end their shifts when they are supposed to. Working overtime is a very common, even expected, occurrence.

The result is that nurses very regularly do not have enough time in between shifts to recover. This is not only detrimental for them, but for their patients as well.

Unfortunately, simply avoiding overtime is an impossible mission. The lack of available nurses in hospitals and other care facilities around the country has even ushered in the need for mandatory overtime for nurses in some states.

What managers can do is make their scheduling processes more accurate. By having exact information on when their nurses are clocking in and out of shifts, they’ll be able to schedule the next shifts with a real idea of how long each nurse worked and then schedule the next shift enough in advance to give each nurse an ample amount of time to recover and get ready mentally and physically for the next long shift he or she will have to endure.

Another important factor of nurse scheduling is giving staff a more balanced shift schedule when it comes to rotating shifts and the times during which they are scheduled to work. Studies have shown that 32 percent of nurses who are perpetually working night shifts and 26 percent of workers who have rotating shifts that are sometimes during the day and sometimes during the evening are prone to suffering from long-term insomnia and sleepiness.

This is another form of burnout that leads to performance and safety issues. While scheduling nurses to work overnight is unavoidable, being able to have a better and cleaner overview of your staff schedules can help you to make sure that there are no particular nurses who are getting the short end of the stick and working way more night hours than others.

Balancing Work and Personal Lives

The fact that nurses often have to work irregular hours, nights and weekends takes a real toll on their social lives and activities outside of work that are related to interactions with family and friends.

Being commonly unavailable for social functions during the weekends and even on holidays can seriously compromise any worker’s ability to maintain a normal and healthy social life outside of the office. Besides being overworked, this lack of balance between work and social activities is one of the main reasons why nurses tend to be so unhappy and why the turnover rate in hospitals is constantly on the rise.

According to this NSI Nursing Solutions report, the turnover rate for bedside registered nurses in 2015 was 17.2 percent and the turnover rate for certified nursing assistants was as high as 23.8 percent. The survey also estimates that hospitals lose in between $5-8 million a year on the turnover of registered nurses, adding that it costs in between $37,000-58,000 to replace one registered nurse.

The report also claims that 44 percent of nurses say that their heavy workload is what prevents them from achieving a healthy work/life balance. Once again, while there is no clear cut solution for remedying these problems, one way to help nurses out with this issue is by making sure that they have schedules in advance so that they can plan their non-work-related activities more easily.

Nurses regularly receive their schedules less than two weeks in advance, which makes it incredibly hard to make plans of any kind. Not to mention that they are very regularly asked to work overtime on short or almost no notice, which makes it a struggle to plan any types of activities that are not related to the workplace.

Hospitals that are able to create schedules a month or longer in advance and give nurses the luxury of knowing when they are working ahead of time will have an easier time both recruiting and retaining top talent.

Providing Better Patient Care

Decades of research and studies have shown that there is a real and palpable connection between job satisfaction and a nurse’s ability to provide proper care for his or her patients.

If you ask any nurse why he or she puts up with the long hours and everything else that makes the job so hard, most will probably tell you that it’s because they love helping people and they love the feeling that helping people to get health gives them.

Of course, being able to provide great care often becomes very difficult for nurses because of the overtime, lack of organization, lack of proper sleep, and all of the other contributing factors that result in high turnover rates in the healthcare industry. Nurses want to build real therapeutic relationships with patients and their ability to care for people and communicate with them makes all the difference when it comes to putting their level of job satisfaction into perspective.

For managers looking to enable their nurses to get the satisfaction they desire from their job and their relationships with patients, providing some semblance of care continuity works best. Whenever possible, healthcare managers should be keeping records of the relationships between nurses and patients and try to create schedules that will facilitate the ability for nurses to provide continual care or consecutive days to the same patients.

This gives nurses the ability to follow through on a patient’s care and establish a relationship. Not only is providing this type of continuity great for nurses, it’s very much appreciated by patients as well, who generally respond better to treatment and therapy when the staff members who are tending to them are not changing every single day.

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