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Nurse Scheduling Software Guide

Nurse Scheduling Software can be an effective tool for significantly reducing the time spent on creating the department or nursing unit’s schedule. It can also function as a vehicle to empower your nurses, providing a level of work/life balance and helping to improve overall employee satisfaction.

Before we get into the return on investment using the best Nurse Scheduling Software let’s answer some quick questions about nurse scheduling.

How to create a nursing schedule?

The best nursing staff schedule is a balance between the needs of the nursing unit and the desired schedule that a nurse wants to work. Communication is key to making sure your nurses are happy and have a say in their schedules.

What does a typical nurse schedule look like?

Nurses in a hospital setting typically work (3) 12-hour shifts. These shifts include days, nights, weekends, and holidays. Nurses who work in a doctor’s office or other outpatient settings may work a more traditional 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

How can nurse turnover be reduced?

With scheduling! Using nurse scheduling software gives your nurses the schedule they want and helps you fill the holes in your schedule. Keep all of your time off requests in one place. By allowing mobile access for your nurses, and you can finalize your schedule earlier to give your nurses more lead time for a work/life balance.


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Nurse staff scheduling and schedule management often represent time-consuming challenges for a nursing manager. The delicate balance of making sure clinical needs are met while giving the nursing staff an equitable schedule can often feel daunting.

Methods like Excel Spreadsheets, Google Docs, and Pen & Paper require nursing managers to spend too many hours on the schedule, as these processes lack automation.

One constant with these processes is the constant need for schedule changes and the inability to effectively manage those change. The minute the schedule is “finalized” it needs to be changed for any number of reasons like time off, illness, shift swaps, or off floor trainings.

Nursing schedules are often in a constant state of flux, which can be very frustrating for everyone involved. Although admins spend significant time on the schedule, it feels like it’s never really set, because life happens for employees.

Your department deserves a better way to manage employee shift scheduling.

Nursing managers need a scheduling solution that is transparent; a process that easily shows everything, all in one place. A process that’s available 24/7 for both employees and administrators. A process that gives nursing staff more control of their respective schedules, and still retains accountability and oversight to ensure department staffing needs are met.

Use Schedule360 nurse scheduling software on a smartphone.

Solutions To the U.S. Nurse Scheduling Problem

Nurse scheduling and rostering for healthcare facilities presents many challenges. Making sure that each shift is properly staffed is one of the hardest challenges that healthcare schedulers face. But you already know this.

Addressing Nurse Scheduling Challenges

Creating a work schedule for nursing units is a delicate balance between keeping your eye on the budget and providing high quality patient care. Keeping staff morale high, OT low, and valuing a healthy work/life balance is key to your unit running like a machine. If nurses are happy, most likely patients are too, and that’s really the goal here.

Solutions to the Nurse Scheduling Problem

nurse reviewing the schedule online at schedule360 dot comA nurse schedule that is fair and efficient is no easy task, especially if you’re still managing your schedules with outdated or cumbersome methods. While your scheduling method may be getting the job done, it might very well lack the capabilities and features needed to increase efficiency, optimize your resources, and reduce agency dependencies.

Web based healthcare scheduling software systems help healthcare organizations meet these challenges with powerful, robust features and give you instant, real-time access to key decision-making criteria, including employee skills and credentials, staff availability, reporting and analytics, set schedule templates, rules-based self-scheduling, and so much more.

1. Keep Track of PTO Preferences

Managing time-off requests is a snap with healthcare scheduling software. Make it easy and transparent by establishing clear guidelines using our cloud-based scheduling software.

2. Web-Based Access Anywhere

Apps can lag and need constant updating, but with a web based nurse scheduling software, you’ll get 24/7 online access from any device with internet access. Look for a platform that is completely scalable with features you can opt in or out for depending on your specific scheduling preferences.

3. Open Communication

Being able to communicate with your staff in real-time isn’t just a convenience anymore, it’s a must have. Look for a scheduling software that has a messaging platform to make it easy to segment your messaging to only those who need to receive it. Make announcements, send emergency alerts, dispatch last-minute shift needs, approve shift swaps, and send out surveys efficiently with time-stamped opens confirming your messages were received.

4. Transparency for Staff Nurses

Employees will enjoy complete schedule transparency with 24/7 access to their schedule from any mobile device with the internet. Web-based healthcare scheduling software eliminates any confusion that can result from shift swaps, hot shifts, and call-outs that can lead to gaps in coverage.

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Nurse scheduling software satisfies the common needs of nursing managers. It streamlines the scheduling process, gives nursing staff more control over their own schedules, and creates transparency as well as accountability. It is available 24/7 through the web, is simple to use, and is cost-effective.

Get Organized

You spend hours creating your unit’s schedule. You have a lot to keep track of! You attempt to piecemeal your scheduling information from emails and formal requests for time off. Take into account your nursing unit’s current weekend and holiday rotations. But don’t forget the notes scratched down on post-its and side conversations held in the break room.

Somehow you carefully put all of this together to craft a schedule for your unit that checks all the boxes and fills the needs. Your nurse schedule template is often broken before it even gets put up.

Customizable nurse scheduling software builds rules into your schedule and works FOR you, not against you. It helps fill the gaps in your schedule proactively and can alert available, qualified nurses and staff to critical shortages in your unit.

How To Reduce Nurse Call Out

Nurse scheduling problems are real. Nurse fatigue and burnout can lead to serious implications for healthcare organizations. When nurses experience burnout, it not only contributes to staff turnover, but can negatively impact the facility’s quality of care, patient satisfaction, and even medical outcomes. For these reasons, it’s important that healthcare admins and schedulers take the necessary steps to decrease the incidence of nurse burnout as much as possible.

Implications of Call Outs

Stressed nurse with head in handsWhen a nurse cancels or calls off for their scheduled shift, usually due to an illness or unforeseen emergency, it impacts the whole team and patients alike. While you hope that call outs are a rare, one-time occurrence, multiple call outs can be flagged as excessive absenteeism, and when that happens you know it’s probably not for emergency reasons. When a nurse exhibits excessive absenteeism it affects the whole unit. This can become a serious issue if not addressed because gaps in coverage and unbalanced skills on shifts leave those who are on shift picking up the slack.

Use Scheduling Software to Combat Absenteeism

Implementing hospital scheduling software can help combat excessive absenteeism and keep your unit running smoothly. Find a healthcare scheduling software with 24/7 access to real-time schedules, and your staff will always have their schedule in hand. Segmented messaging allows admins to send relevant requests, broadcast urgent coverage needs, and re-assign resources with ease. Rules-based scheduling software helps minimize conflicts by providing a standard process for your team to follow so optimizing staff nurse scheduling is easy. Opt for scheduling software that has a self-scheduling feature giving your nursing staff more control over their work-life balance, and reducing undesirable outcomes such as excessive absenteeism. Nurses can plan when they need time off, instead of having to use their paid time off or resorting to call-outs that can put high-quality patient care at risk.

Current Nurses Schedule Battles

Does it feel like a battle when you put your nurse schedules out? Do you don your armor because your nurses are going to come at you?

You need a way to make everything fair and balanced.

As a nursing manager, you face many challenges in scheduling. You’re often challenged with striking a balance of everything from time off requests and limited nursing staff to balancing skill levels and on-call rotations. You also need to take into account unexpected absences, employee burnout, and the resolution of nurse scheduling conflicts. Schedule abuse can also be an issue. A nurse who constantly requests and receives last-minute time off can appear as being favored to other employees.

The amount of time you spend on creating work schedules is too much.

Nurse Managers need an efficient solution to solve nurse scheduling problems, which is why choosing a customizable nurse scheduling software is at the top of many nursing managers’ wish lists. Putting part of the responsibility for the department schedule in the nurses’ hands can provide them with more perspective. They will see their nurse schedule in real-time.

A beneficial nurse scheduling program can track time-off requests and scheduling conflicts. It can help nurse managers optimize clinical staff. Make sure your nurses are working their contracted hours while meeting the operational needs of the unit. Help you set your shifts by setting skill levels for safe staffing requirements.

Should Nurses Work A 12-Hour Shift?

Nurses have an understanding that when you’re on, you’re on. While many people work an 8- hour day, 12-hour shifts are very common in hospital settings. Acute care facilities use a 12-hour shift to minimize the number of errors in communication and for a better continuum of care. If you are building a nursing schedule for your unit consider a 12-hour nurse shift scheduling template.

Advantages of 12-Hour Nurse Shift Schedule

Increased Productivity and Fewer Errors

Fewer shift changes mean fewer opportunities for mistakes to occur. Slowdowns in operational efficiencies, such as communication breakdowns tend to happen during the transition between shifts.

Convenient Scheduling

Scheduling 12-hour shifts are less complicated than shorter shifts and consume less administrative time to organize and oversee. When you have 12-hour shifts, you need less staff to cover more time, and that means less schedule changes.

Reduced Labor Costs

Healthcare and retirement benefits account for approximately 25 to 30 percent of an employee’s total compensation, so fewer employees working longer shifts reduces labor costs, minimizes mistakes, and simplifies nursing schedules. Offering 12-hour shifts is also an effective recruitment and retention tool.

Disadvantages of 12-Hour Shifts

More Work Upfront

Implementing 12-hour shifts may require extra HR time to educate, train, and follow up with 12-hour shift employees.

Tips to Help Your Nurses Survive 12-Hour Shifts

  • Make sure all staff members take a break.
  • Implement nurse self-scheduling guidelines to reduce staff burnout.
  • Allow shift swaps with guidelines.
  • Provide complete schedule transparency.
  • Provide 24/7 web-based access to your nursing schedules. 
  • Balance nursing shifts with the right mix of credentials and skills.
  • Encourage healthy work-life balance.
  • Offer OT rather than mandatorily schedule it.
  • Automate shift rounds and holiday time off.

FACTS: Nurse Scheduling Software WILL Save You Money

Making sure there is adequate coverage on every shift while avoiding or reducing overtime costs is a big challenge for a nursing manager. The issue isn’t limited to just nursing staff either. It also applies to clinical, support, and non-clinical staff, too. Overtime expenses add up quickly and considerably affect a unit’s bottom line. Supplemental agency and /or traveler staff used to fill open shifts also kill department budgets.

Implementing nurse scheduling software can help your unit battle budget-busting overtime.

Outdated, manual scheduling processes make it impossible to see the entire picture for more effective schedule management. Utilizing online healthcare scheduling software lets management instantly see overtime thresholds for available employees, anywhere, 24/7, from any device.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median wage for a registered nurse at about $34 per hour. That means it costs your unit a minimum of $51 per hour every time you have a nurse work overtime at time-and-a-half to fill a shift. Another budget killer is the shift differential to incentivize nurses…don’t forget incentive pay can pile on top of the overtime, to really strangle your budget. More precise scheduling and optimizing other qualified staff and PRN employees can save you significant money when filling open shifts.PIedmont chose Schedule360 as the best nurse scheduling software for their healthcare staff.

A recent study by Schedule360 found an Ohio hospital reduced a monthly average of 850 overtime hours to 250 hours after implementing nurse scheduling software. That difference saved Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center over $10,000 per month in overtime in just one department.

View Piedmont Case Study

Nurse director using nurse scheduling software

Full Scope of Not Optimizing Your Nursing Schedule

All kinds of problems can develop when nurse managers do not make the most effective use of nursing staff when managing the schedule. Optimizing the nursing schedule will give your department the maximum benefit of staff resources at any given time. An optimized schedule will balance job satisfaction, patient care, salary costs, and other performance areas. However, when optimization is ignored, your department suffers from lower productivity, lower employee satisfaction, and higher costs, with patients potentially paying the price through a lower quality of care.

Labor Costs

Labor represents the number one cost for any healthcare organization. Hourly nursing wages make up the majority of this labor expense. The overall cost really grows through inefficient schedule management with shifts that result in overtime. Worse yet are open shifts that have to be filled by supplemental or agency labor. Therefore, optimization of staff schedules is essential to maintaining financial health.

Cost of Turnover

Healthcare continues to be one of the industries with the highest turnover rates. The cost of nurse turnover can have a big impact on an organization’s profit margin.

Overtime and Burnout

A high number of nurse managers agree that scheduling problems are a huge factor when it comes to low staff morale. When nurses are repeatedly asked to pick up extra shifts, cover for someone at the last minute, or work overtime, they become both physically and emotionally drained from the additional work. In addition, overtime pay kicks in and sends your payroll budget through the roof.

Agency Costs

While it’s convenient to call an agency to fill an open shift on the unit, this convenience does come with a price. Agency nurses cost more than staff nurses.

Agency nurses can also lessen the continuum of care for patients.

They are not as plugged-in to the rhythm of your department. Another, often unseen cost associated with agency nurses is the cost of having to train them on unit processes, procedures, and systems.

This takes time away from your regular staff providing high-quality care to patients.

Resource Utilization

Patient’s needs should always be the top priority of any hospital department. However, patient care can suffer if resources are not taken into consideration when scheduling nurses.

Some nurses have special skills or are better suited for specific types of care. Nurses continue to be one of the top resources a medical facility has.

Scheduling the time and duties of the nursing staff based on patients’ needs could improve the quality of care as it’s a more efficient use of hospital resources.

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Features To Look For In Nurse Scheduling Software

nurse checking her nursing schedule via Schedule360 the best nurse scheduling software on her phone
Nurse scheduling software can provide a cost-effective solution for scheduling automation. Using secure cloud-hosted software, a nursing department can create and adjust schedules in real-time to proactively align staff with demand, to control labor costs, increase productivity, and maintain compliance.

Payroll Compiling

Customizable nurse scheduling software can be configured to capture, compile, and export the complex variables associated with your employee payroll. The right system handles even the most complex payroll environments and simplifies payroll compilation for your organization.

Available Shift Dispatching/Broadcast Shift Dispatching

Nurse workforce management software allows last-minute needs to be dispatched to all qualified and available employees. Communicate via cell phone, text, or e-mail messages in real-time to fill gaps and ensure proper coverage.

Integrated Messaging

Admins can use the messaging tab in Schedule360 to send messages to an employee’s message board, cell phone, and/or email address. Employees are notified when time off is approved/denied, a change is made to their schedule, recertification is necessary, and when there are float scheduling alerts. When an employee opens and reads the message it is time-stamped. This management tool provides a level of documentation and takes the guesswork out of messaging by giving admins the ability to see whether or not an employee has read the message.

Labor Reporting and Analytics

A dashboard provides a quick, concise overview of schedule and report statuses. Configurable reports allow the scheduler to view scheduling data at an enterprise, group, district, and facility levels; and export to print or Excel.

Employee Preferences and Time Off Requests

Employee logins are configured to capture scheduling preferences or requests and to submit time-off requests for admin approval. Preferences can be configured to capture days available and/or days not available. These postings then transfer to the daily, weekly, and monthly schedule views allowing administrators a deeper level of transparency for making better scheduling decisions.

Integrated Employee Survey Tool

Nurse scheduling software allows the creation and distribution of personalized surveys to employee message boards to gain feedback and measure employee satisfaction levels. Response data is captured and compiled for use by management.

License and Credential Tracking

Licensure, skills, and certifications are tracked and stored in employee profiles. Skills that require recertification are tracked by the expiration date. A customizable nurse scheduling software can alert an employee upon login for a set number of days prior to the expiration of licensure, skill, or credential.

Units/facility/enterprise set-up can disallow employees with expired credentials from signing up for shifts. Admin level views provide a compiled report showing all employees with the respective expiration dates of licensure, skills, and credentials.

This ensures JCAHO compliance and allows for better planning for onsite training and re-certification.

Class Scheduling

Admins can post educational classes for employee sign-up. Admins define the unit(s), class size, date, time, and location-all of which are shown in the class display. Additionally, admins can register specific employees for classes as needed.

Auto Scheduler

Use a series of algorithms to match employee profile qualifications to open shifts. Nurse scheduling software can be configured to restrict the number of shifts scheduled in a row, account for time off and preferences, and schedule based on employee’s distance from a location.

Set Schedule Templates

Self-scheduling programs allow schedulers to build a recurring template for each employee by facility. This template is stored in the system and replicates each scheduling period to lock down and confirm employee shifts. These set schedules can be edited, cleared, or inactivated at any time. This process provides significant time savings for managing holiday and weekend schedule rotations, and for nurses who only work weekends, or have set days they are unavailable to work.

Rules-Based Self Scheduling For Nurses

After the release of shifts for the upcoming schedule and immediate booking of set schedule shifts, remaining open shifts are available for self-scheduling by unit-based employees. The software does the majority of the work for you in an intuitive, seamless process. It gives your nurses flexibility while ensuring individual work targets are met and safe levels of staffing occur. Management defines setup, and features can be turned on/off for the entire department or for each healthcare provider, providing a high level of configurability.

Overtime Alerts

During nurse self-scheduling or when admins schedule employees, the program provides overtime alerts. This alert can be overridden by an admin. Employees can request to work OT shifts with these requests being displayed under the “pending” tab for admin approval. Employee requests for overtime automatically dispatch an alert email to an admin user to ensure the request is managed in a timely fashion.

Benefits of Nurse Scheduling Software

Nurse scheduling software brings many benefits to the job of administrative users. Not only does it simplify your job as a manager, but it can

  • Save your unit money and/or resources
  • Boost job satisfaction
  • Ensure patients receive a higher quality of care as a direct result of a higher level of staffing

Digitally scheduling shifts for a department is less stressful and more productive. It streamlines the process and saves you time. With nurse scheduling software you can add or edit a shift in a schedule with just a few clicks of a mouse.

You can also delegate some of the job with self-scheduling. Nurses can begin trading shifts, as well as pick up open shifts on their own.

Reduce your stress by reducing the number of holes in the schedule, and the hours you work on it.

The right system for your department can also track census vs. labor and create HPPD productivity reports that allow management to better analyze distribution and hours worked by each employee.

Web-based scheduling system lets you and your staff have 24/7 mobile access to the schedule. That means scheduling responsibilities by everyone can be completed instantly from any internet-enabled mobile device. Actions are done in real-time, so everyone will always have immediate access to the most recent schedule.

Questions to Ask About Nurse Scheduling Software

It is important to do your homework when selecting nurse scheduling software for your organization. Many companies that offer workforce solutions can look the same, however, all systems are not all created equal. There are some important questions you should ask when considering which company to contract with. How vendors answer will tell you a lot about the company and the product.

Is Your System the Right Size for My Needs?

The right size should mean the system will be able to handle any number of employees with the same ease of process. Whether it’s 50 employees or 50,000, a valuable system has the infrastructure to manage scheduling and configure to unit specifications as required. Different departments may manage scheduling differently. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work in this case. Be sure to look for software that is robust and will comply with all of your scheduling requirements and create comprehensive reports for analysis.

In addition, the software should evolve as your organization evolves and adapt to fluctuations in your staffing levels and changes in policy. After all, the healthcare industry is constantly changing.

How Well Do You Understand Nurse Scheduling Problems?

You want to work with a company that understands the challenges you face as a nursing manager. A vendor with some expertise in healthcare will be a benefit. They can offer advice and best practices for solving common problems with scheduling your nurses in addition to your other clinical and support staff. A good vendor will help you set up a good workflow since they have experience with many common hurdles nursing managers face.

Can Your Software Link to Billing, Payroll, Accounting, and Other Systems?

Be sure to ask the vendor if their system can talk to the software your organization already uses. Check and see what interface options are available. After all, what good is scheduling software than can’t translate to payroll?

Can You Give Me a Guided Demo Over the Web?

It is best to have a vendor give you a custom demo. This allows you to experience exactly how the software program works.

You want to see the features you can utilize, and also get a sense of the features you won’t.

Can features be eliminated?

And what if there is a feature that you need that’s currently not included in the demo?

Can your scheduling software be customized to meet your needs? See if the vendor will use data that you are familiar with or can load your actual scheduling data.

Can I Contact References?

Any reputable vendor should be more than happy to give you a list of customers you can contact. Then you can ask them directly how the software works for them. Ask questions about how implementation and training went, how the vendor handled any issues, and how valuable the software has become.

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Based on feedback from users, KLAS reported that Schedule360’s Nurse scheduling software was perceived as a highly cost-effective solution for reducing unnecessary labor costs.

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Getting Participation For Self-Scheduling

Nurse self-scheduling software can make your life easier, automate the majority of your job, and give you a clearer big-picture of the schedule in real-time. Many nurses prefer to self-schedule.

  • Self-scheduling is one way to improve staff morale and reduce turnover. It gives your nursing staff more control over their work/life balance. It also helps battle fatigue from unhealthy shift patterns and nurse burnout. This leads to higher retention and becomes an important recruitment tool.
  • Self Scheduling software for nurses gives your staff the power (and responsibility) to make their own shift changes and swaps before you start to reconcile the schedule. This reduces the time you spend going back into the schedule once finalized.
  • Once rules are in place for holiday and weekend rotations, nurse scheduling software can automate this part of your scheduling process. You can choose to schedule your team yourself or allow your nurses and support staff to schedule themselves inside the rules you’ve already established into the program.

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Why Choose Schedule360, the Best Nurse Scheduling Software?

Nursing managers spend way too much time keeping everything organized while putting their unit’s schedule together. Schedule360 offers nurse scheduling software uniquely configured for your needs. As an online platform, Schedule360 offers your nursing staff 24/7 access to their schedule. Based on the rules you set in place, they can see their schedule, pick up shifts, and trade shifts-all in one centralized platform.

You’ll have transparency over scheduling, along with complete documentation for all changes, shift pick-ups, and trades. It offers a way to hold your healthcare staff accountable for the changes they make to their schedule.

Schedule360 delivers affordable healthcare staff scheduling software that feels like it was specifically designed for your organization. You don’t need to compromise or workaround functionality that doesn’t fit your business. Schedule360 provides your team or unit with exactly what they need, and gets rid of the features you don’t. We use the latest web and mobile technologies to keep you on the leading edge of scheduling technology.

Schedule360 includes free setup, online training, and the industry’s best customer support, all in one affordable price. We assign a dedicated Schedule360 representative who works with you to understand your unique scheduling needs, provides expert consultation, and manages your setup with our IT, training, and administrative teams. Our customer support team is available 24/7 to assist you.

See how Schedule360 can improve the work/life balance of your staff and give your unit’s schedule the organization and transparency you’ve been looking for. Schedule a demo of the best nursing scheduling software today.

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