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To Cut Costs, Motivate Nurses, Take a Cue From Airlines

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, July 16, 2012

Surprisingly, these issues may be easier to fix than financial leaders may realize. At St. Francis Hospital everyone from the nurses to administration was dissatisfied with the scheduling system. That's why the organization got creative, explains William Reynolds, RN, nurse manager at St. Francis Hospital.

The hospital set a goal of using zero agency nurses, not hiring any new nurses, and still filling all the nurse shifts while improving staff morale.

Step one was putting the schedule into the nurse's hands. The hospital implemented a web-based self-scheduling tool and shifted away from a paper-based system. This allowed unit nurse managers and staff nurses to view all the open shifts across the entire hospital and bid for the ones they wanted.

"Before this system, nurses would come to work thinking they were going to work on a specific unit and then we'd float them off to another floor that was very dissatisfying to the nurses. Now, [they] can actually pick the floor and shift they want to work and know that's where they will be working," Reynolds explains.

From a financial standpoint, Reynolds says the approach is a cost reducer. "I can go in to the system and see which nurse is going into overtime and who makes $25/hour versus another nurse who isn't going into overtime and makes $20/hour. I can make a better decision as to which nurse to bring in. Plus, the system has all the nurses' credentials so I can select the most cost-effective person while still maintaining the right skill mix," he says.

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