Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Hospitals Offer Flexible Schedules to Boost Morale, Productivity

Published in the American Hospital Association’s August 2010 Hospitals & Health Networks

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Finding appropriate work-life balance becomes staff retention strategy

Law firms do it. Businesses do it. And now, hospitals do it, too. Nationwide, more facilities offer doctors, nurses and other staff flexible schedule options to promote a healthy work-life balance.

A 2009 report on health care business policies by Core Practices, a company that creates shift work strategies, found that of health care workers who resigned, 72 percent quit because the hours did not accommodate family and social time. Addressing that issue, some hospital officials say, will create a stronger health care system.

“Our workforce is our most important asset. We must have an adequate number of competent staff to care for our patients,” says Beverly Jordan, R.N., vice president for nursing and chief nursing officer for Tennessee’s Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. “We have to figure out what appeals to them, what makes them want to work for us, why they stay.”

Baptist’s nurses choose to be per diem nurses, internal float pool nurses or weekend nurses. The hours worked and pay rates vary by position, but giving all nurses choices has boosted employee satisfaction and dropped attrition rates to single digits, Jordan says.

Innovative flexible scheduling also extends to hiring staff for a job other employees prefer to avoid. Nocturnists, hospitalists who exclusively work the night shift, relieve other physicians from overnight work, says Brian Bossard, M.D., founder of the hospitalist practice at BryanLGH Medical Center, Lincoln, Neb.

“We have a plan to hire nocturnists when more of our doctors decide they don’t want to work nights,” Bossard says. “The nocturnists will be paid 10 percent more, but the daytime doctors will control how they spend their time.”

Flexible schedules also apply to nonclinical staff. Chilton Memorial Hospital, Pompton Plains, N.J., made significant scheduling changes in October 2009 to offer health information management employees more individualized work plans, says Ruthanne Mendillo, Chilton’s human resources manager.

“With our new electronic medical records system, we’ve moved half of our coders and chart analyzers to a telecommuting schedule,” Mendillo says. “It’s one of the most exciting things happening in our hospital.”

Employees are less distracted at home, she says, and they like being able to tweak their hours to make time for personal activities. Supervisors monitor employee workflow online. The results: Productivity in the HIM department has doubled, and Chilton is using the space vacated by the coders to expand its cardiac and interventional radiology services lab.

To be successful, Mendillo says, hospitals must commit to finding an effective scheduling strategy and putting in the time to make it work for all employees.

This article 1st appeared in the August 2010 issue of HHN Magazine.

To read the article online: http://www.hhnmag.com/hhnmag_app/jsp/articledisplay.jsp?dcrpath=HHNMAG/Article/data/08AUG2010/1008HHN_Inbox_workforce&domain=HHNMAG

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August 10, 2010 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , ,

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