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Stepwise Success

Faster Scheduling

Published May 19, 2014 6:01 AM by Scott Warner

Scheduling is the bane of every manager’s existence. Those who delegate “self-scheduling” are only kidding themselves. Not only is creating a schedule time consuming, time spent making it “fair” is unrewarding. Managers can explain themselves blue to staff who have already decided they’ve been stiffed.

Management should spend time team building, setting strategic goals, removing obstacles, and making sure patients get the best care possible. It can be a waste of time to fret, fuss, and fight over who works what. But not getting it right destroys trust, especially if a manager gives up with a frustrated “because I said so.”

Faster scheduling can help.

Given a number of employees and shifts, it’s possible to create a perpetual schedule to implement a staffing plan. A rotation lets employees plan for vacations, swap shifts, and predict their own schedule for a year or more ahead, leaving empty shifts and holidays to fill.

This turns scheduling from an unstructured to a computer problem. Here are two approaches:

  • Print any month by plucking out a substring of the template. If you know where a year begins, for example, a year is just a repeating string of characters up to 365 or 366 for each employee. A computer program can calculate the start of a month and instantly print a part of the string read from a simple text file starting at that position for the number of days in the month.
  • Use Excel functions. If your schedule is one tab in Excel and your template another, the two can talk using HLOOKUP and VLOOKUP. A key combining the week and weekday can pull the exact shift assigned in the template, creating a tentative schedule in less than a second. All that remains are adjustments for vacation, swaps, etc.

Many labs have a geek who can figure this out. The former saves techs time, the latter management. And shrinking hours into seconds leaves time for team building on filling holes. Isn’t that the point?

Next, I’ll describe a program that creates a schedule. It’s easier than it sounds.

NEXT: Computer Scheduling

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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