How Duality Systems Solves the Nurse Scheduling Problem

What is the Nurse Scheduling Problem?

Even though nurse scheduling has been a facet of healthcare since the dawn of hospitals, little has changed to improve how it’s conducted. Tinkering with nurse scheduling is like adjusting a balance scale that can never be quite level. The challenge with nurse scheduling is the difficulty of satisfying the constraints of the organization or department (such as staff qualifications or certifications, required shifts, and patient-staff ratios), along with satisfying the work preference of nurses. To this day, even with digital scheduling solutions and apps on mobile devices, nurse scheduling continues to be a frustrating and time-consuming task for nurses and managers. For the nurses themselves, the scheduling process is often seen as being non-transparent, fostering complaints of favoritism or bias and an ‘everyone for themselves’ attitude when it comes to claiming or swapping shifts. Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff schedules are continually in flux as patient census shifts wildly, staffing gaps increase, and call-offs become more frequent. This is just one more stressor that is eating away at the work-life balance of one or our most important professions.  

What’s the impact of poor nurse scheduling?

Employee and resource demand are critical drivers of healthcare costs. Personnel burnout and turnover is an epidemic with which hospital administrators and nurse managers struggle to contend, leading the American Nurses Association President to call upon the Biden Administration to declare a “national nurse staffing crisis” in fall 2021. To do better, healthcare administrators have to consider both cost and employee preferences when trying to optimize resources and personnel. It’s well known that considering employee preferences in scheduling increases job satisfaction, saving costs due to turnover, temporary staffing, and issues caused by continuity disruptions such as patient safety and quality health care delivery.  

The 2021 NSI National Health Care Retention and RN Staffing Report noted that in 2020, nearly 17% of nurses in US hospitals turned over, citing such challenges as poor staffing, unacceptable work-life balance, and frustration with administrative processes. In a February 2022 report, McKinsey found that nearly 32% of nurses are considering leaving patient care entirely in the coming year. Five out of the top 10 reasons they reported driving their departure are related to scheduling! That rate of departure is unsustainable in our healthcare system, not to mention the cost of replacing those who’ve left.

Hospitals report that new hires take approximately three months’ time for administrative processing and training, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in expenses–Becker’s Hospital Review notes that the average cost of turnover for an RN is about $40,000. This turnover and vacancy rate leads to a high reliance on costly travel nurse staffing as well as overtime expenses for primary staff. Converting just 20 temporary nurses to 20 regular employees would save the average hospital $1.4M annually.

How does Duality solve the nurse scheduling problem?

Duality Systems was founded with the ideal of using the latest automation and artificial intelligence tools to improve work-life balance and allow businesses to work smarter, not harder. We want computers to do the work they do best so that people can do the work we do best. Our company was founded and staffed by nurses and technologists who recognized an acute need to improve scheduling as one means to reduce nurse burnout and turnover by improving each nurse’s experience. Across the U.S., hospitals use a wide range of nurse scheduling tools, from hand-filled paper spreadsheets to phone apps that have digitized this manual process, often spreading the burden across their staff in the name of “self-scheduling.” In each case, significant staff resources and time are still wasted on balancing schedules and re-balancing on a daily basis as they struggle to deal with call-offs and shift swaps.

None of these have done what Duality’s Balance Scheduler does: use state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology to painlessly and automatically create nurse schedules that satisfy nurses’ individual preferences while also meeting all departmental or unit requirements, saving hours (if not days) of wasted time in the process. Balance Scheduler creates a custom schedule for each employee, provides ultimate transparency in the process, and automatically calculates how best to balance for any potential disruption. It can be accessed from a range of devices and integrates seamlessly with a number of applications in use at the facility. In hospital trials, our solution vastly improves nurse schedule satisfaction and reduces time spent on scheduling from hours and days down to mere minutes. We provide proprietary analytics help administrators visualize exactly where they can best focus staff resources to continually improve staffing acuity and cost efficiencies.  

In some cases, moving to an innovative technology solution like Balance Scheduler requires organizations to work through the change management process. We’ve helped some of the most risk-averse and ‘old school’ organizations move to a better future and we’re ready to help you do the same. Please read through our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more. 

Please contact us to discuss how we can improve scheduling and employee satisfaction in your organization. 

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