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Five leading practices to streamline your open shift management process

What does the time leading up to each shift look like within your hospital?


  • Is there a frantic scramble to find staff who might be available to pick up critical open shifts?
  • Are patients backed up in the ER or PACU, waiting for staffing issues to be resolved so they can be admitted on a floor?
  • Does your staffing office look like a phone bank, with the staffing coordinators calling nurse after nurse to ask them to come in?
  • Does each unit fend for themselves when finding staff to fill open shifts?

If this chaos is the reality at your health system, your organization could benefit greatly from an overhaul of the workflows used to find staff when there are gaps in the schedule.

Here are five best practices for open shift management to consider.


1. Ensure managers and staff nurses work collaboratively

When staffing and scheduling is a top-down process that does not engage front-line nurses, it can be a source of job dissatisfaction for staff. Instead, provide more opportunities for nurses to participate in the process and choose the open shifts they want to work.

That cooperative approach benefits the entire organization. When nurses are more accountable for choosing their shifts, managers spend less time doing administrative staffing tasks, nurses appreciate having input into their schedule, and open shifts are filled more effectively.

2. Eliminate the heavy reliance on phone calls

Often, inefficient manual processes and a lack of accurate data lead to the staffing office team and unit managers making desperate phone calls to find staff to fill critical open shifts at the last minute. Without predictive analytics to foresee when understaffing will be an issue and without the tools to do a mass outreach to staff who are qualified to work the shift, the process becomes reliant on haphazardly prepared calling lists and large numbers of phone calls. The staffing office and unit managers spend valuable time on the calling efforts, and nurses become frustrated with the frequent calls that disrupt their personal time and add unneeded job-related stress.

Taking advantage of push notification capabilities can eliminate this problem. Managers and staffing coordinators identify the staff who are qualified to fill the open shifts and send notifications to those who are eligible. Staff can elect to receive the information via text, email or within the mobile app.

3. Promote communication and cooperation with enterprise-wide visibility

Without a comprehensive view of staffing needs across the organization, each unit becomes its own silo. A better approach is to make sure the staffing office and all unit managers can see the complete picture so they are empowered to work together to fill open shifts. With that enterprise-wide approach, staff are optimized and patient care needs are met across the entire organization.

4. Move from reactive to proactive

By using technology to help them see forecasted staffing needs, the team can adapt their plans in advance of the shift. With the ability to make better staffing decisions earlier in the process, the reactive decisions become  proactive choices. Unit managers and the team in the staffing office can be more strategic and focused on future planning because they’re no longer spending their time mitigating the issues of staffing shortages or overages. Staff benefit from more schedule stability because there’s less need to flex up and down just before or during the shift.

5. Use the right technology to support the process

When technology enables the entire team to participate in the scheduling process, open shift management is streamlined for everyone. ABILITY SMARTFORCE® Scheduler enables the collaboration and data-driven decision-making required for a more effective open shift management process.

Here are four key workflow areas where technology transforms the process from chaotic to collaborative:


  • Proactively spotting open shifts With predictive analytics highlighting staffing needs days before the start of the shift, unit managers and staffing coordinators have more time to make the necessary changes.
  • Communicating with staff Instead of one-to-one phone outreach, the staffing office and unit managers can send out push notifications to any staff who are qualified to fill the open shift.
  • Requesting open shifts Based on their chosen method of communication, staff are notified about open shifts. Because they have more advance notice, staff can pick the shifts that fit their schedule, giving them a better work/life balance.
  • Filling the shift Based on criteria such as date and time of request, seniority and overtime status, the unit manager or staffing office can award the shift to one of the nurses who requested it. Staff who requested receive a notification to let them know whether or not they have been assigned the shift.

To learn more about Schedule Management, contact us for a demo. Our product specialists are nurses who understand the challenges of open shift management and can show you how the right staffing solution can benefit your organization.

Improving the open shift management process is one way to engage your staff. For information about additional staffing practices that empower your staff, check out this eBook.


Inovalon and design®, Inovalon® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of Inovalon, Inc.

By Inovalon