Wisconsin ED cuts $50,000 a year off its staffing costs

Have you ever wished that you could instantly adjust your staffing based on the current census in the ED? An "off-with-benefits" program at St. Vincent Hospital’s ED in Green Bay, WI, saves approximately $50,000 per year by doing exactly that, reports Paula Hafeman, RN, MSN, director of the emergency center.

Nurses take turns going home early or coming in late if the ED’s census is down, she explains. "They can use paid time off if they choose, or can just take the time off with benefits still accruing for that time."

During each shift in the ED, team leaders determine if the policy will go into effect according to minimum staffing levels for time of day, based on average census. "For example if there are only two or three patients in the ED at 6 a.m., we would ask one or two nurses to come in at 9 instead of 7," says Hafeman. "Nurses are very cost-conscious and usually volunteer to go home if it is quiet."

The off-with-benefits program is used about four hours a day on average, says Hafeman. "But it is usually a half hour here and there, which does add up to an impressive cost savings," she says.

Productivity measures are shared with nurses via the ED’s monthly newsletter and staff meetings, adds Hafeman. "The off-with-benefits program improves productivity, which in turn improves job security and decreases salary costs," she says. The ED is expected to maintain 98% productivity to replace nursing staff at the current level.

The ED measures productivity based on the number of patients in each acuity level. Each level is assigned a relative value unit, which is multiplied by the number of patients in each level.

"Our year-to-date productivity is 102%, which demonstrates what a great job the staff is doing managing the workload," says Hafeman.

[Editor’s note: For more information, contact Paula Hafeman, RN, MSN, Director, Cancer and Emergency Center, St. Vincent Hospital, 835 S. Van Buren St., Green Bay, WI 54307-3508. Telephone: (920) 433-8428. E-mail: phafeman@stvgb.org.]