To Cut Costs, Motivate Nurses, Take a Cue From Airlines

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , July 16, 2012

St. Francis Hospital opted to use a point system similar to travel miles. Shifts are assigned a point value, with the critical or more challenging shifts are assigned a greater point value. "That encourages more nurses to bid for the shift so we can fill those more quickly," he says.

The system exchanges one dollar per 1,000 points, and the nurses can redeem those for merchandise through a catalog. "The more shifts a nurse picks up, the more they can redeem. We've found the most popular items are actually gas cards and a Jessica Simpson hobo bag," he says.

Saylor notes, however, that in the beginning, the staff was apprehensive.

"Some of the staff were reluctant and concerned that we were just trying to control dollar spend," she says. "But as soon as they understood that they had full access to self-schedule and also had easy access to accept or reject additional work, including floating options, they jumped on the bandwagon. They also love the fact that they can bank earned points for major purchases, or even use them for gift cards. It is not unusual to see a nurse showing off his or her latest purchase gotten through the reward system."

The program has been a success. The hospital no longer uses agency nurses and it  saved $884,000 in its first year.

Now if you can reduce your budget by that for the cost of a few handbags and gas cards, that's well worth it. And it's worth it to your employees, too.  I still have my Tiffany bracelet; I worked hard for it and it remains a tangible reminder to me that hard work pays off.

Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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