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Scheduling program offers staff flexibility

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Nurses, nursing assistants and unit secretaries now have a choice when it comes to picking up extra work shifts in patient care areas to help fill staffing needs. The program, ShiftSmart, allows MUSC clinical staff working in the Medical University Hospital and Ashley River Tower (ART) to sign up to work available shifts, outside of their home unit to supplement canceled shifts and earn extra money. Staff register online to search and sign up for available shifts within their area of competency.
NSICU nurse manager Cheryl Holderfield, left, reviews ShiftSmart with staffers Preston Sparks, Cindy Edwards, right, and Melissa Hill.

The new scheduling program was created based on staff and administrative recommendations as a home-grown program to help supplement daily staffing needs by allowing qualified staff to cover open shifts throughout the medical center. It was designed to supplement the hospital options pool (HOP) schedule and expanding automated nurse office scheduling system used by MUSC Clinical Services. It was created by Michael Irving, MUHA clinical informatics manager, and managed by a five-person ShiftSmart Task Force which monitors and oversees the program, manages tracking data, and provides recommendations.
“Our goal was to establish a program that we could implement quickly, was user-friendly and met our small, individual needs. ShiftSmart allows us to expand the hospital’s ability to fill work shifts on a daily basis,” said Elizabeth Perry, R.N., manager of the Medical University Hospital staffing office , hospital supervisors and HOP. According to Perry, the HOP office has changed the way its schedules staff and meets the hospital’s staffing need with the rollout of ShiftSmart in October. The program’s success is dependent upon both staff and unit participation.
The program is available to nurses, nurse’s aids, clinical assistants and clinical unit secretaries who are in good standing (not under disciplinary action or probation) within their home unit.
With ShiftSmart, nurse managers and unit secretaries submit their staffing needs via ShiftSmart and the central staffing office 48 hours in advance. Staff wishing to enroll in the program must apply via their home unit. Once registered, they can sign up online for available shifts to work in or outside of their home unit. Participants can sign up to work extra shifts with ShiftSmart only after meeting their weekly scheduled work commitment within their home unit. Nurse managers verify each participant’s work competencies and qualifications to work within any of 10 area zones. For example, a qualified cardiology nurse may also work in a general medicine unit. The central staffing office and the employee’s home unit nurse manager ultimately approves ShiftSmart schedules. Once approved, participating employees and the requested hospital unit staff will receive a confirmation by phone within 24 hours of the employee’s request.
To help orient staff to using ShiftSmart, eligible employees can attend orientation and training via ClinDoc and AdminRX. Additional unit-based training and individual sessions also are available.
ShiftSmart utilizes both permanent and floater nurse staff. Nancy Johnson, is a 20-year registered nurse who has worked as a HOP nurse for the past 12 years. She heard of the ShiftSmart program while working nights in the Medical University Hospital and decided to give ShiftSmart a try.
“I submitted the program application and tried it out,” said Johnson, who is qualified to work in the adult medical-surgical unit areas. “So far it’s been a good experience and I like the areas that I’ve been scheduled to work in. I found that signing up with ShiftSmart is both quick and easy.”
5West Hemotology-Oncology nurse manager Kathy Burt also is a proponent for ShiftSmart, especially as it relates to filling her unit’s needs for secretarial support on the weekends.
“With the recent changes in staffing profiles and new nursing models, we saw an immediate need with support positions in our unit, especially in the role of the unit secretary to help staff the desk and interface between families during weekends,” said Burt, who manages a 21-bed unit and 20-plus member staff at ART. To help, Burt has managed to cross-train her staff nursing assistants and technicians with the unit secretary’s skills.
“ShiftSmart is a good system,” Burt said. “My staff is doing great adjusting to these new work models and can now pick up shifts whenever they desire. With ShiftSmart, there’s some peace of mind knowing that someone qualified can fill this role and minding our unit desk to handle patient or other special situations. That allows others do their jobs. It’s a win-win situation.”
Once established, ShiftSmart is expected to expand a parallel program in Ambulatory Care, Institute of Psychiatry and the Hollings Cancer Center.
For information, visit and click ShiftSmart or contact the staffing office at 792-8375, 792-5126 and 792-7467.

Nov. 14, 2008

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