by adgrooms on October 18, 2019

Burnout is a problem in healthcare with many different contributing factors. As we contemplate ways to put an end to burnout, physician scheduling must be considered as part of the solution. Scheduling is a complex and time-consuming task that can be hard to get right in the eyes of everyone on the staff, especially if an organization has a shortage of physicians. This can lead to overworked providers and a feeling of imbalance and unfairness. How can a better schedule be built that benefits everyone on the team? Here are three important considerations.

Fairness- There needs to be a method of establishing fairness. No provider wants to be working more weekends than everyone else. Perceptions of favoritism in a schedule can affect the morale of the whole team. Ongoing occurrences can lead to apathy and resentment. A good schedule needs to take into account what kinds of shifts everyone is working and distribute them evenly.

Balance- Schedule balance between work and rest needs to be considered. A provider who works 3 weeks straight with no break isn't going to be able to perform their job to the best of their abilities. Regular intervals of time off are needed for physical and mental recovery. But at the same time, scheduling all of the time off too close together is not optimal for recovery. A provider's requested time off is paramount, and visualization of the intervals can be helpful in establishing balance.

Relationships between schedules- Providers often have different duties with different schedules. For example, a cardiologist may be on the hospital rounding schedule and also have a specialist procedural schedule. Obviously, it does not work to schedule for rounds and procedures at the same time. The relationship between them needs to be considered and built into the schedule. A provider that has a clinic shift with a 15-minute window to make it to their first procedure in another building is not given enough buffer for an appointment that runs over. Providers also need time to eat during the day. This can be easily lost in the shuffle of multiple schedules.

A well-made schedule should provide time for rest and recovery while spreading responsibility evenly. But even if a schedule is thoughtfully made with all of these considerations, a sense of unfairness and imbalance can exist. Shared tools to view the schedule and confirm the fairness and balance can solve this. Transparency gives providers confidence in a well-made schedule, and soliciting feedback is a good way to catch issues, cement fairness, and gauge the feelings of the team.

How do you make sure your schedules are working for your providers?