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Nursing Scheduling Software Increases Leadership Pipeline

The U.S. nursing shortage is making headlines from Arizona to Augusta. Kentucky lawmakers are approaching the problem by easing regulations that make it difficult for nurses licensed elsewhere to practice in the Bluegrass State. Oregon legislators want to see the state issue nursing intern licenses that allow students to practice while being supervised by registered nurses. But for all the handwringing about nursing shortages, there is little talk of the crisis in the nursing leadership pipeline and the role that nursing scheduling software can play in opening the spigots.

How Many Hours Do Nurses Work a Week?

About 65% of hospital nurses work 36 to 39 hours per week in three shifts of 12 to 13 hours. Approximately 26% work 40 to 45 hours per week in shifts lasting 8 to 9 hours. Others work about the same number of hours per week, but their shifts are 10 to 11 hours long.

In practice, shift lengths are often unpredictable due to hospital nursing staff scheduling changes and patient needs. This unpredictability was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, which caused the number of hours that nurses work each week to skyrocket. Fueled by overwhelming patient censuses, emergency waivers that increased the patient-to-nurse ratio, and a workforce that was itself decimated by the disease, nurses often found themselves working double or triple shifts.

How Many Days Do Nurses Work?

Most hospital nurses work 12-hour shifts three days per week, while nurses who work in medical practices typically work eight-hour shifts five days per week.

Although a three-day workweek seems appealing at first glance, 12-hour shifts can take a toll on nurses’ health and well-being. Research has found that the longer the shift for hospital nurses, the higher their levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction.

What is the Role of a Nurse Manager?

Nursing leadership and management play a critical role in creating and maintaining a sustainable nursing workforce. Nurse managers have far-ranging responsibilities, including overseeing operations, and creating and managing the budget. These responsibilities are in addition to those related to hiring, evaluating, and supervising nursing staff. Nurse leaders are responsible for the bigger picture, such as reducing length of stay and readmission rates, developing treatment plans, reducing nursing turnover, and supervising teams.

One would think that, with the variety of responsibilities and opportunities for advancement in nursing management, nurses would be enthusiastic about entering the leadership pipeline. Unfortunately, that is not the case, in no small part because nurse managers spend the majority of their time on scheduling.

How Do You Make a Nursing Schedule?

Nursing schedules are complex. A hospital needs round-the-clock nursing coverage, and a nursing schedule must incorporate a balance of personnel who have a variety of skillsets and certifications or licenses. In addition, the schedule may include employed staff, traveling nurses, and per diem nurses.

When nurse managers use manual processes – such as pen-and-paper or spreadsheets – to create schedules, the process is cumbersome and disheartening. Changes in nurse availability, shift trading, and differing patient acuity levels create snowballing scheduling problems, constant changes, and schedule distribution challenges.

In contrast, nursing scheduling software removes much of the burden from nurse managers, enabling at-a-glance skill and certification notes, scheduling swapping, and increased staffing for high acuity patients. Because nursing scheduling software uses cloud computing, it provides real-time schedules to authorized users from within or outside of the hospital.

Nursing scheduling software enables nurse managers to spend less time constructing schedules and more time on other aspects of operational and staff management. As more facilities adopt nursing scheduling software, an increasing number of nurses will begin to view nurse management less as scut work and more as opportunities to advance their careers and contribute to hospital goals. Then, the leadership pipeline will fill with promising candidates.

MDsyncNET’s cloud-based nursing scheduling software delivers four advantages: low set-up fees, simple to learn, a single source of truth, and painless scheduling swaps. Call 888-506-5061 to see how MDsyncNET can help you integrate nursing scheduling software into your facility.

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