If a hospital is a machine, then the heart of this machine is arguably the centralized staffing office. The decisions made around choosing staff to utilize in the event of a shortage can seriously affect cost, productivity, and ultimately patient care. A centralized staffing office enables unit mangers to focus on improving the processes surrounding patient care, while employing staff with the sole purpose of making these important staffing decisions. Having worked as and in conjunction with staffers at several hospitals, I frequently encountered the common complaints of inadequate training, feelings of being overwhelmed and devalued and the absence of a single reference tool to assist with decision-making. Staffers, while labeled lower-level administrative personnel have a direct impact on a hospital’s budget, its adherence to compliance, and the quality of patient care. Hospital management must begin to reframe their gaze surrounding the role of a staffer; this revision should include training for decision-making and the adoption of staffing software that addresses the multiple challenges faced by staffers.
When a hospital is utilizing a paper process, training of staff can just involve pulling information from several disconnected sources and (worst case scenario) simply the personal knowledge of senior staffers. Example: Staffer A is aware Jane Jones R.N does not work Saturday nights because they attend church together on Sunday morning. The problem with this type of knowledge transfer is that it is largely inconsistent and doesn’t adequately address the serious nature of the tasks to be performed by the employee. Staffers should be trained to make decisions based on the “big-picture,” and this picture must be clearly defined by management. Management has the ability to customize the parameters for choosing staff that is called in to fill open shifts and directly relay that information to staff and leadership in a format that is user-friendly and reportable. Additionally, the introduction of staffing software creates and ensures uniformity, which can streamline and diminish the time spent training new employees.
Staffer are charged with the enormous responsibility of meeting mandated staffing levels, while making financially responsible choices, adhering to labor budgets, and safe-guarding the hospital from liability by executing sound decision-making regarding compliance. As a result, they must be given “intelligent” tools to tackle the process of choosing the right staff or the result will simply be the product of whoever answers the phone first. A major advantage of staffing software is its ability to provide a level of efficiency that simply can’t be accomplish by a staffers scrolling through a rolodex of hundred of nurses names with little-to-no information on their availability, competency, or seniority. With staffing levels under heavy scrutiny, a tool that empowers staffers to make better decisions in choosing the best personnel can be a valuable asset to management.
Whether it is a judgment of who to call in or off, the role of a staffer involves making decisions within minutes that have direct implications for the hospital as a whole. By clearly acknowledging the importance of the staffer position and its place within the overall success of a hospital and by providing a means for optimizing job performance, success is achievable. While there is not an all encompassing, “able to replicate a paper process” staffing software system on the market, the benefits of those that are available far outweigh that of a manual process. We send staffers into a lion’s den of competency, skills and certifications, availability, seniority, union rules, and budgeted numbers, so it is in our best interest to give them reliable decision-making tools and training to make those decisions.
[Today’s guest blog entry is by Sonya Wright. She is a part of Axsium’s healthcare team and brings her expertise from working in hospitals directly with schedulers and staffing offices into her position as a consultant. Sonya is located in the LA-area. -Chris Flanders]