Physician Scheduler


Who Should Create Physician Schedules?

The pros and cons of having a physician create your shift schedules—or not. 

It’s a common question—who should take on the all-important task of scheduling clinical staff? A physician scheduler has a difficult job: balancing the needs of patients, providers, and business objectives, all while understanding the complex rules behind the schedule. Here are just a few examples of some types of scheduling rules:

  • Minimum staffing requirements. For example, each full-time physician must work 140 hours each month.
  • Sharing weekend, night, and on-call shifts among providers. An example might be ensuring that all physicians work no more than two consecutive weekend shifts.
  • Provider scheduling preferences, like Dr. Smith would prefer not to work on Tuesday nights so she can attend her son’s soccer games.

Because of these complexities and preferences, many practices task physicians with scheduling their own clinical teams. In many ways, this approach makes sense. Who better to know which doctors can cover certain appointments or which doctors prefer to work together? Physicians have an up-close-and-personal relationship with the team’s needs as well as a greater understanding of the technical aspects of scheduling.

However, that doesn’t mean physicians are the best person for the job. There are numerous benefits to having an administrator take on the task of scheduling. Let’s breakdown the pros and cons of each so you can identify what will work best for your organization.

Physician Scheduler – The Pros

There are many reasons physicians can be a good fit for creating your organization’s shift schedule. Let’s review just a few:

1.) Less training may be needed for physicians.
Physicians are likely already familiar with many of the rules, standards, and preferences your practice has in place for scheduling. Because they are so familiar with the ins and outs of their schedules, there will likely be much less time needed to get them up-to-speed and ready to begin creating shift schedules.

2.) They truly care about creating an effective schedule.
Because they are so impacted by scheduling, physicians are in a unique position to truly care about the quality of the schedule. Physicians want what’s best for their patients, their fellow colleagues, and themselves and are motivated to ensure the whole team is satisfied with a balanced schedule that improves patient care.

3.) Physicians are often analytical and detailed.
Physicians are generally known for many of the attributes and skills needed to create an effective shift schedule. A physician’s affinity for analysis and detail-oriented work will likely be a huge asset when creating complex shift schedules.

Physician Scheduler – The Cons

There are also downsides to having a physician create shift schedules. It could impact patient care, physician satisfaction, and schedule quality.

1.) It takes time away from patient care.
A physician’s time is very valuable. Having an administrator take care of the schedule costs significantly less and frees up time for physicians to dedicate to patient care, which many physicians would probably prefer.

2.) Just one more administrative task.
Physicians are already burdened with too many administrative tasks. From EHR documentation to reimbursement, physicians are already responsible for a growing list of administrative duties. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of burnout. In light of that, giving a physician another administrative task could lead to decreased job satisfaction and more burnout for that provider.

3.) There’s a potential for scheduling bias.
It’s a common concern for practices. A doctor put in charge of the schedule may be inclined to give him or herself beneficial shifts more often than others. Even if the scheduling physician doesn’t show bias when scheduling, it’s possible the rest of the clinical team could still suspect him or her of doing so. It could be an unwelcome source of tension for a team.

Administrative Scheduler – The Pros

While physicians are certainly suited for the difficult task of shift scheduling, administrators are also a great asset for a practice looking to amplify their scheduling. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends scheduling be managed by a non-physician. Here are just a few of the benefits:

1.) There are possible cost savings.
Leveraging an administrative scheduler will cost less overall than using a physician’s time to create the schedule. Building a schedule manually can take up to hundreds of hours and even automated scheduling requires some level of schedule management, accounting for shift swaps and other changes that inevitably impact the schedule. For a physician, this means losing valuable time that could have been spent clinically.

2.) You know the schedule is objective.
Unlike a physician scheduler, an administrator is able to maintain an impartial relationship with the schedule. You can be sure that every schedule is created objectively, and clinical staff will also have the same reassurance to feel that the schedule is fair every month. This way, your team can avoid any concerns that the scheduling physician gave his or her friend a more desirable shift.

3.) They have more time to dedicate to scheduling.
Whereas a physician would need to squeeze time for building the schedule into their already busy schedules, an administrator can dedicate much more time to creating an effective schedule. Instead of being an afterthought, the schedule becomes a top priority and adequate time is dedicated to the task. Better scheduling can lead to happier physicians and better patient care.

Administrative Scheduler – The Cons

That being said, there are a few setbacks to having an administrator create clinical schedules.

1.) More training could be needed to get started scheduling.
As we’ve mentioned, creating a clinical schedule can be quite a complex task. There will likely be a steep learning curve for an administrator as they try to learn the rules surrounding minimum staffing requirements and clinical staff preferences. This means it could take a bit more time to get your scheduling process running smoothly.

2.) Finding the right fit.
Flexibility, persistence, and a service-oriented attitude are just a few of the traits a scheduler needs to be effective. As a result, finding the right person for the job could be a challenge. Overall, a scheduler needs to be detail-oriented and able to quickly adapt to changes that might mean a lot of reworking of the schedule.

So, who is the best person for the job?

It depends on your organization’s needs and goals. At the end of the day, both physicians and administrators can be effective schedulers. Hopefully, these pros and cons have helped you weigh the best option for your team.

No matter who is creating the schedule, it is still an incredibly difficult task. Ensure your scheduler has access to the tools they need to schedule clinical teams efficiently and quickly. Learn more about our guided and optimized scheduling solutions to see if they could be a good fit for your team.

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