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Revamp Nurse Staffing Policies and Cut Costs

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, June 4, 2013

The more disordered a nursing unit is with its staffing, the more turnover and costs will go up. A thorough assessment and overhaul of scheduling, tracking, and staffing policies can put an end to the chaos.

It seems like a simple thing: If you hire a nurse to work 36 hours per week, you expect her to actually work those 36 hours. But what if he or she isn't always doing that? What if sometimes the nurse puts in a 32-hour week?

And what if you found it that it's been happening more often than you think, among nurses who are regularly just a few hours shy of their full-time status?

What if a-few-hours-shy was the norm across several units or even across many sites in a multi-hospital system? "That doesn't happen, does it?" wondered Mary Lou Wesley, senior vice president and chief nurse executive for WellStar Health System, based in Marietta, GA.

Oh, yes it does. In fact, "It's pretty amazing how much it does," she came to learn.

Wesley says the more chaotic a unit is with its staffing—when shifts perpetually seem to be short-staffed, and nurses are continuously on call—the more turnover will go up and staff satisfaction will go down.

Switching to scheduling software that allows managers to see who's working what hours has allowed managers at her hospitals to be alerted when nurses aren't working enough hours, or in some cases, too many hours.

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