Revamp Nurse Staffing Policies and Cut Costs

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , June 4, 2013

It's also allowed managers to see other, smaller things, such as which nurses are regularly punching in a little early and out a little late.

Jolene Goedken, senior vice president and CNO at Mercy Health System, says making sure nurses work a full workweek means "you don't have the reliance on needing to fill those hours with other contingency resources."

"Any time you're using contingency resources," she says, "that's where you start to get some of the premium costs associated with that."

Yet identifying the problem is only half the battle. Wesley says making sure nurses work when they're supposed to be working has required more than simply knowing who was working when. Part of improving scheduling at WellStar involved doing a complete review—and in some cases, revamp—of hospital policies related to staffing, scheduling, and attendance.

Some policy changes were simple. For example, the review revealed a wide variation in starting and end times for staff nurse shifts within the five-hospital WellStar system. Sometimes the differences were between different facilities, but some were actually between units at same facility.

"If we want to utilize resources more effectively… we really need standardized shift start and end times," Wesley says. WellStar also made policies about punching in and out of shifts on time more explicit; when hundreds of nurses do that every day, the costs associated with it really add up.

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