There have been some significant changes to the way the Region’s Staff Scheduling department does its work. And it seems to be showing some positive early results.

“We have changed our hours in the Saskatoon office for the time being,” says Mike Northcott, director of Employee Relations. The scheduling office in Humboldt already operates on a Monday to Friday basis. “We have also started using technology to a greater extent to fill shifts.”

Currently, registered nurses at Saskatoon’s three acute care sites are able to log on to a temporary website to see what shifts need to be filled. By sending a short e-mail, they can start the process to take the shift.

“This is one of the ways we’ve been able to fill shifts farther in advance of their availability,” says Northcott. “Last year we filled 380,000 shifts but struggled to offer shifts as far in advance as everyone would have liked.” But so far, the new processes has meant filling shifts three weeks or more in advance.

The other important factor is the role the department plays in ensuring shifts are filled at straight time rather than overtime. One of the Region’s initiatives is to reduce overtime costs. “Just before the May long weekend, we had filled straight time pay shifts up until the middle of June for most units.”

Productivity has increased in the department as well. While scheduling staff normally fill about 7,500 shifts each week, they filled almost 10,000 in the same time earlier this month.

Part of the changes are designed to ensure there is adequate staffing where needed. Northcott and the team in Staff Scheduling remain connected with managers on an ongoing basis to ensure the system works for them, but most importantly that it works to provide the best patient care possible.

Watch for information in the future on filling shifts via text message and other new technologies.

“This is a work in progress,” says Northcott. “The changes are presenting challenges on occasion and we are learning from and changing the things that don’t work the way we had anticipated.”