Staff Scheduling | 2 MIN READ

3 Tips for Optimizing Flexible Staff

Dustin Whiteley

No matter how carefully you plan your core schedule, you can expect to make adjustments on the fly. This week may bring a spike in patient volume or acuity, or staff may be missing in action because of illness or rough weather. A flexible staff solution can help accommodate unforeseeable circumstances.

What is Flexible Staffing?

Flexible staffing is often a strategy used to fill short-term gaps in staff schedules. Companies have traditionally hired permanent employees when there’s not enough people on staff, but flexible staffing can often serve as a cost-saving alternative. Some benefits of flexible staffing solutions include reduced labor costs, reduced overtime and premium pay, and fewer legal restrictions/requirements compared to employing more full-time hires.

Tips for Optimizing Flexible Staff Schedules

As you make staffing adjustments, follow these tips to keep labor costs down and avoid unnecessary overtime or premium pay.

  1. First, call on regular staff who have not yet filled their minimum commitment for the current scheduling period. Monitor the hours staff work per defined scheduling period, so you know who is available without paying OT.
  2. Next, use Per Diem and PRN staff to fill spikes in patient care requirements, keeping in mind their minimum commitments. If a nurse has committed to three shifts this month and has only worked two, call that person in. It’s an unnecessary expense if you’re paying OT when regular or Per Diem staff still have unfilled commitment hours.
  3. Use your float pool to fill open shifts, pulling staff from other departments or facilities. Float Pool scheduling should happen as part of the core scheduling process, but those resources are deployed in real-time to areas of greatest need. A mistake I often see hospitals make is to limit the number of employees who are considered ‘float-worthy.’

Benefits of Float Pools

Floating is becoming more prevalent in our industry, with healthcare systems looking across all facilities, rather than limiting staff to one hospital or unit. Float pools are key to meeting spikes in patient volume or acuity. The advantage for staff is the opportunity to build different skills and develop their careers. As you hire or contract with staff, look for people whose qualifications allow them to work more floors and departments, giving you more flexibility in staffing.
Do you have cost-saving tips on flexible staffing? Please share your comments.