Patient access staff members increasingly ask for flexible scheduling, due to competing obligations at school, home, and other jobs.
- Give registrars the opportunity to self-schedule.
- Allow employees to indicate which days they want to work, with management having the final say.
- Accommodate requests of per diems when possible.
Morale was at an all-time low when Stefani Moore, regional manager of patient access at St. Joseph Health in Irvine, CA, took over the department. Self-scheduling was one of the first changes she made.
“Staff wanted weekends rotated fairly and more flexibility on their schedules,” says Moore. Management wanted staff to be a part of decision-making in the department.
“We wanted to take a fair approach which gave employees input on their own schedules and, at the same time, ensured we had ample coverage,” says Moore. Here is how the department does scheduling:
• About three weeks before the schedule has to be posted, managers email employees a blank schedule template.
“The template is created on an Excel spreadsheet, with vacation times blocked off,” says Moore. Managers give employees a due date to return the schedule.
• In each area, staff members work together to be sure all shifts are covered after everyone puts in their requested days.
“Staff can see which days other employees are on vacation and where coverage is needed,” says Moore.
• The schedule is returned to management, who gives the final approval.
Sometimes employee preferences are rearranged to be sure the department is well-staffed. “A submitted schedule is not guaranteed,” says Moore. “But more times than not, staff ensure adequate coverage on their own.”
Maria Lopes-Tyburczy, director of patient access at Hackensack UMC Palisades in North Bergen, NJ, is always willing to work with staff on scheduling.
“This is very important for the staff, especially if they have other responsibilities,” she says.
When patient access managers do need to change the schedule, they give employees several options. “We will design one to three schedules that best fit the needs of the department,” says Lopes-Tyburczy. “Then we allow them to choose what best fits their lifestyle.”
At St. Joseph Health, patient access scored 92% on a recent employee engagement survey that asked if staff agreed with the statement “Overall, I am satisfied with my job.” Moore notes, “The healthcare norm is 77%, and best in class is 84% or higher.”
Moore believes flexibility in scheduling is a driving factor for the high satisfaction rates. “This offers a better work-life balance for staff,” she says. “They have a sense of ownership and input.”
At Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding, CA, patient access director Kim Rice offers staff “flexing time” if volume decreases.
“This allows them to leave early and use paid time off or take time off unpaid, whichever they choose,” she says.
The staff members use the time to run personal errands or go to appointments that normally they would need to schedule around their shifts. “Patient access is continuously up and down with the patient census,” says Rice. “On slow days, it’s a benefit to staff to use the free time to their personal advantage.”
When more than one employee asks for vacation time during the same week, Rice asks each one if he or she would mind shortening the time off. Often, the employees come up with a solution together. “Some staff may offer to give up a specific vacation if they can have the next holiday off,” says Rice. “We all do our best to accommodate each other.”
Rice believes retention is better if staff members, some of whom attend school or have a second job, work shifts of their own choosing. “Getting the staff members’ input allows them to be a part of the departmental scheduling decisions,” she says.
Don’t Lose Per Diems
At St. Joseph Health, per diems aren’t included in the self-scheduling process. Instead, they’re required to submit their availability to management.
“This is based on the minimum requirements of making themselves available for a specific number of weekdays and weekends,” Moore says.
However, per diems can choose which days to make themselves available, based on the shift they were hired into.
“This means they can work around their own personal commitments,” says Moore.
Many per diem staff in Hackensack UMC Palisades’ patient access department are also full-time students or have another job. Some employees considered leaving the department because their shifts conflicted with their school schedules. Lopes-Tyburczy says, “At times, they want different shifts biweekly. If we’re able to accommodate it without disruption to the department, we do.”
All per diem staff work every weekend. Some want to work a double shift in order to have a day off.
“If we are able to accommodate the request without impacting departmental operations, the request is granted,” says Lopes-Tyburczy.
- Maria Lopes-Tyburczy, Director, Patient Access, Hackensack UMC Palisades, North Bergen, NJ. Phone: (201) 295-4028. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Stefani Moore, Regional Manager, Patient Access, St. Joseph Health, Irvine, CA. Phone: (949) 381-4685. Email: Stefani.Moore@stjoe.org.
- Kim Rice, MHA, Director of Patient Access and Communications, Shasta Regional Medical Center, Redding, CA. Phone: (530) 229-2944. Email: email@example.com.