Managers must act on sudden surges in volume
Extra person makes a big difference’
While rounding in an outpatient registration area at Elmhurst (IL) Memorial Healthcare, registration supervisor Gloria Vargas-Gonzalez saw that only one registrar was working, despite many patients waiting to be registered.
The problem was that patients from an off-site location were being redirected to the hospital for diagnostic testing because of equipment problems. Vargas-Gonzalez quickly pulled a registrar from another area to help, which prevented dissatisfied patients and overworked employees.
"That one extra person makes a big difference," she says. "It makes staff feel important. We’ve done something about it, rather than have them struggle."
No problems with lunch breaks
When radiology staff reported increased patient volume, Vargas-Gonzalez came up with a solution by giving a part-time employee extra hours.
If an area is short-staffed, an extra person means that everyone can still take their scheduled lunch break. "I’m a big believer in cross-training, so we move people around constantly," says Vargas-Gonzalez. "It’s a huge disatisfier if someone can’t take lunch at their scheduled time."
Vargas-Gonzalez first started cross-training her staff when she took a close look at the census in the emergency department (ED). "We had three people starting at 6 a.m. in the ED, and it doesn’t warrant that," she says. Some ED registrars now work in outpatient registration areas until 9 a.m. "That way, staff can increase their knowledge, and we can use them in case someone calls out in another department," Vargas-Gonzalez says.
Staff members appreciate being able to work in other areas instead of having their hours cut.
"I can pull someone from the ER and say, We had a call off for 6:30 in outpatient. I need you to work there until we can find coverage,’" she says. "That way, it doesn’t create overtime."