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Software ends scheduling headaches

September 1, 2007
by GEORGE D. VELIANOFF, PHD, RN, FACHE
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A behavioral health hospital reduces the time needed to create staff schedules by two-thirds

With 130 beds, Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital is one of the busiest behavioral healthcare facilities in Illinois. For our hospital the process of manually generating equitable schedules for a staff of more than 300 nurses had become cumbersome. We were spending more than five hours each week just to create a schedule that would combine individual units' schedules into one master schedule. In addition, scheduling staff who could perform specific tasks was challenging, as the scheduler had to know all of the staff members' qualifications to properly staff each shift.

To achieve better staffing effectiveness and provide a faster and easier way to turn scheduling information into meaningful reports, we needed to take our scheduling processes to the next level. At the end of 2006, we decided to replace cumbersome and error-prone “pencil-and-paper” scheduling with staff scheduling software (Visual Staff Scheduler PRO [VSS PRO] from Atlas Business Solutions [ABS]).

Software implementation and internal training were completed in less than a week. Initial set-up included defining shifts, identifying reasons for time off, and inputting nurses' skills and certifications.

A software solution proved to be the right cure for our scheduling headaches. The staff coordinator can now produce specific schedules to display scheduling information in the desired format. It used to take a coordinator an hour to prepare a daily shift schedule for the hospital. Now it's ready to print with just a few mouse clicks.

Scheduling software improved our ability to immediately find qualified nurses for open shifts. We can see at a glance which nurses can perform specific tasks, such as English/Spanish translation, so we can quickly assign an appropriate person.

Using software also helps our hospital to respond instantly and effortlessly to any reporting requests. Prior to using scheduling software, scheduling coordinators had to manually combine information from several schedule sheets. Now reports are formatted to the desired layout and ready to print in seconds. Directors and supervisors have all the scheduling information they need in one place.

Since implementing scheduling software, our hospital has reduced the time it takes to create schedules and generate reports by two-thirds. Using scheduling software has allowed staffing coordinators to have more time for other tasks and projects.

George D. Velianoff, PhD, RN, FACHE, is a Chief Nursing Officer at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, which provides mental health and addictions treatment (including inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient services) in the Chicago area.

For more information about VSS PRO, visit http://www.abs-usa.com.

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