Scheduling Season—A Stressful Time for Hospital Operations Leaders
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Scheduling Season?
When the temperature drops each year and the holiday season starts, many healthcare professionals anticipate the start of cold and flu season. Hospital operations leaders, however, are bracing for a busy season marked by compounding end-of-year physician scheduling demands.
“Scheduling Season”—or the months of September through December each year—causes stress for hospital operations leaders: They face the dual challenge of setting the schedule for the year’s final months while also building the following year’s call schedule.
But how much busier is Scheduling Season? To dig deeper, we evaluated three years of data from 20,506 real physician shift schedules created in Lightning Bolt’s scheduling platform.
We found that the average number of schedules and the average length of schedules created from September through December across the three-year timespan increased above the combined yearly average.
Let’s examine the key findings to explore the heightened workload that Lightning Bolt’s scheduling users face. We’ll also look at the intense stress levels schedulers without the support of advanced technology face during Scheduling Season.
Combating Frequent Schedule Changes
Fact: The number of schedules created during Scheduling Season is 34.58% above average.
The first stressor apparent in the data is a rise in the number of schedules created during the months of Scheduling Season—an increase of 34.58% when compared to the yearly average. The data also showed that the average number of days between the date a schedule is generated and its start date is 55, which means schedulers are building schedules, on average, nearly two months in advance.
As a result, schedulers face dual tasks during Scheduling Season: (1) setting the schedule for the final months of the current year and (2) building the following year’s call schedule. The holiday season further complicates the intensity of schedule changes during this time of year. This can be a point of contention for providers, adding another level of complexity and stress when building the schedule.
Fact: The length of schedules created during Scheduling Season is 23.01% above average.
The scheduling data also revealed that the length of schedules created during Scheduling Season is 23.01% above the yearly average. In physician shift scheduling, the length of a schedule is one of three significant variables—alongside the number of assignments and providers—that have a direct impact on the number of possible schedule combinations.
For example, the number of possible schedule combinations for two providers and one assignment across two days is 16. However, if the number of days is increased to 30 while the other variables remain the same, the number of possible schedule combinations increases to more than one quintillion. It’s no surprise why hospital operations leaders feel like they’re trying to complete an impossible task during Scheduling Season when the length of the schedules they’re creating equals more complexity and, therefore, more time spent scheduling.
Scheduling Season is Here
Who’s bearing the brunt of this Scheduling Season within your organization: an optimized scheduling solution or an overwhelmed scheduler on the brink of burnout? To learn more about making this the least stressful Scheduling Season yet, contact Lightning Bolt’s scheduling experts to schedule a consultation.