Save thousands by creating your own staff database

How would you like to shave thousands of dollars off your ED budget? Develop your own staff-tracking database, recommends Kathy Weil, MS, RN, education coordinator for the ED at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, MD.

"Since my hospital has not yet networked a system for staff tracking, including addresses, competencies, and status, I have developed my own database," she says.

Weil estimates that if the ED were to purchase a comparable database system, it would cost at least $4,000. "Products start in the four digits and run up into at least the six digits, depending on the depth of networking capability the buyer is purchasing," says Weil. "As for increased productivity, it has definitely saved me hours upon hours — which correlates to dollars based on one’s hourly salary."

In addition, if the hospital does decide to purchase a database, it often takes months or even years to implement it and provide staff training, says Weil. In contrast, a simple ED staff-tracking database can be developed in a week or less, she says.

"Granted, commercial products are much more sophisticated than what I’ve developed, but when time and energy are factored, I come out ahead," says Weil.

The database includes all staff demographics such as status and addresses, competencies, licenses and dates, and certifications. "The upkeep is minimal and takes only minutes daily or weekly," she says. "This type of tracking system beats thumbing through file upon paper file."

To create the database, Weil used Microsoft Access software and manually inputs most of the information. However, if you already have information compiled on an Excel spreadsheet, you usually can import it into the Access program, she says.

"Initially, this can be painstaking, but the rewards far exceed your effort," says Weil. "If Joint Commission asks which nurses have completed a competency, I can have the information in seconds, instead of physically searching through every nurse’s file folder."

Who isn’t using equipment correctly?

For quality improvement projects, staff can be identified quickly by their identification numbers or Social Security numbers, says Weil. "This is important since these are the numbers used to identify users of certain equipment," she explains. "I can then keep track of who is not using the equipment appropriately."

The database allows Weil to generate reports of competencies to determine which nurses have completed them. "On the fun side, we can provide birthday lists quickly," she says. "We can also easily and quickly generate address labels."

Although developing the staff-tracking database is not difficult, the user needs to have a basic familiarity with computers, says Weil. "By developing your own staff-tracking database, you can create it to match your work setting, save thousands of dollars, and learn how to manage databases, which is a key skill in this day and time," she says.

[Editor’s note: For more information, contact Kathy Weil, MS, RN, Education Coordinator, Emergency Department, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, 9901 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850. Telephone: (301) 279-6461. Fax: (301) 217-5324. E-mail:]