Scheduling Season — the most stressful time of year for hospital operations leaders

When the temperature starts dropping each year, many healthcare professionals are anticipating the start of cold and flu season. Hospital operations leaders, however, are bracing for a busy season marked by compounding end-of-year physician shift scheduling demands.

Scheduling Season — or the months of September through December each year — causes the temperature to rise on stress for hospital operations leaders as they face the dual challenge of setting the schedule for the final months of the year while also building the following year’s call schedule.

But just how much busier are the months of Scheduling Season? To dig deeper, we evaluated data from 20,506 real physician shift schedules created using Lightning Bolt Solution’s scheduling platform from 2013 through 2015.

We found that both the average number of schedules and the average length of schedules created from September through December across the three-year timespan saw an increase above the combined yearly average.

Let’s take a closer look at the key findings to examine the heightened workload that not only Lightning Bolt’s scheduling solvers face but that schedulers without the support of advanced technology face as well during Scheduling Season.

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, two months in advance.

As a result, schedulers are faced with a dual task during Scheduling Season: (1) setting the schedule for the final months of the current year and (2) building the following year’s call schedule. Further complicating matters is the fact that there is a high concentration of holidays during the last few months of the year, which can be points of contention for providers, adding another level of complexity when building the schedule.

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 above the yearly average by 23.01%. In physician shift scheduling, the length of a schedule is one of three significant variables — alongside the number of assignments and providers — that has 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, when 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 1 quintillion. It’s no surprise, then, 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 equal more complexity and, therefore, more time spent scheduling.

Scheduling Season is here.

Who’s bearing the brunt of this Scheduling Season within your organization — a robust scheduling platform or an overwhelmed scheduler on the brink of burnout?

If you’d like to learn more about making this Scheduling Season the most stress-free yet, contact Lightning Bolt’s team of scheduling experts here to set up a consultation.

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