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

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

Self-scheduling has always been an employee favorite, but having the ability to see all the open slots and to select specific units knowing that they won't be floated added a layer of satisfaction.

"It makes it easier on all the nursing staff because the person who's coming there wants to be there. That adds to better retention and less absenteeism," Reynolds notes.

Although the web-based scheduling tool was well-received by the staff, that doesn't mean filling critical or less-desirable shifts was made easier. That's where having a tangible motivator made a difference, explains Debbie Saylor, RN, senior vice president of patient services, St. Francis Hospital.

Raffles and other reward programs were used during celebratory weeks, such as nurses or hospital week, and were always very popular, says Saylor. "We found that staff loved to win stuff. Though our labor costs were escalating, … we believe in the concept of encouraging our staff to own their schedule was important. So [we created a program] in which nurses can reap a reward for scheduling, and it's more appealing to the staff," she says.

St. Francis Hospital opted to use a point system similar to travel miles. Shifts are assigned a point value, with the critical or more challenging shifts are assigned a greater point value. "That encourages more nurses to bid for the shift so we can fill those more quickly," he says.

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