Enforcing Staffing Policies and Why It’s Necessary

It’s not sexy, but operational policies are fundamental to the success of organizational outcomes. With labor costs accounting for a significant chunk of an organization’s budget, a lack of consistent workforce practices is damaging to the bottom line. In healthcare, this is equally harmful to the quality and continuity of patient care, and staff morale.

Standardization of policies and practices creates a framework for predictable results. While this seems logical and obvious, it is common in provider organizations for departments and units to operate as sovereign entities, following their own staffing and scheduling practices without considering the impact on the enterprise as a whole. When aggregated at the system level, variances between units and even shifts result in considerable unnecessary expense, inefficiencies to the organization, and frustration for staff.

Using poor staffing practices such as not holding staff to weekend and holiday commitments, scheduling PRN staff first, not following cancellation/floating order, not following a standardized or best practice open shift management strategy all affect labor costs and staff morale, affecting turnover rates.

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Provider organizations should have clear and standardized policies that are applied consistently in all situations. Adhering to consistent staffing and scheduling policies ensures uniformity in practices and has a positive impact on employee morale and patient satisfaction.

One of the best ways to ensure staffing policies and practices are being followed is through a centralized resource management center (RMC). Lack of an RMC is usually a quick indicator that many staffing and scheduling policies are being deviated. An RMC can ensure staffing policies are being applied at the enterprise level when collaborating with clinical decision makers on staffing decisions. An RMC is a fundamental strategy to optimize resources and create efficiencies when sharing resources across units or an enterprise.

An RMC controls costs through economies of scale, consistent application of policies, proactive identification of needs by utilizing predictive analytics, and improved coordination of resources. Continuing to drive all clinical decisions, hospital leaders entrust an RMC to identify staffing needs weeks to months in advance and place resources in the areas of highest demand. The success of an RMC is built on a framework of best practices, transparency, cultural acceptance, automated scheduling processes, and continual monitoring of metrics. A properly positioned and designed RMC is the conduit for all other workforce strategies to be enacted through.

Core to leading any significant change effort is organizational alignment. Organizational alignment enables substantial change to occur due to a culture of personal accountability and the commitment everyone shares in achieving organizational goals and quality patient care.

The transition from a “silo” staffing mentality to an enterprise mentality is a culture shift, and necessitates clear and consistent communication to combat those who may be resistant to the new process. The information required for improving work processes should flow freely across organizational boundaries.

Making sure staffing and scheduling practices are being applied and followed at an enterprise level requires champions who are able to communicate the importance and connect it to each employee. These front-line change agents are early adopters and able to sway the majority and keep a positive momentum.

As the ever-changing nature of healthcare continues to push organizations to embrace change or risk falling behind, an organization’s workforce will continue to be a significant resource that affects organizational success. People drive change, and having employees who are onboard with strategic initiatives helps move organizations toward their goals.

MORE: Declining hospital admissions slow healthcare staffing revenue growth rate

Jackie Larson

Jackie Larson
Jackie Larson is president of Avantas, a provider of workforce management technology, services, and strategies for the healthcare industry.

Jackie Larson

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