The vibration announcing the arrival of a new text message could turn into welcome work hours for many Saskatoon Health Region staff. For the past month, the staff scheduling department has been using an automated text message, e-mail and phone fan-out system to invite staff to register for available shifts.

Smart Phone

Automated text message, e-mail and phone fan-out system now used to invite staff to register for available shifts.

“The results have shown a phenomenal increase in the number of people we can reach,” says Kweku Johnson, manager of staff scheduling. “Before where it would take us hours and thousands of phone calls to fill all the available shifts within a week, we can reach that number of people in a matter of minutes per shift using the new technology.”

Currently the system uses a computer to broadcast a message to staff who are eligible for the services of the staff scheduling department. Employees are able to go the Staff Scheduling website and select if they wish to be notified by e-mail, automated phone call, or text message about shifts. The staff scheduler enters the shift’s information into the computer and with the click of a button, sends the available shift to all eligible staff. Staff may choose to opt out of the automated contact system and choose instead to manually check the website for available shifts. Staff Scheduling will no longer make personal phone calls to RNs to fill shifts.RR-2013-12-11-StaffSchedulingTakeoutBox

“Before, we would have to call individuals on the list, wait the appropriate time for a response (according to the collective agreements) and then if they turned it down, call someone else,” explains Johnson. “That could mean we would only be able to call 28 people a day to fill one shift.” The new system is significantly more efficient and cost effective, freeing up scheduling staff to do the important work of assessing staffing needs on work units.

The online pre-booking process launched for all RNs on October 14, 2013. With this process RNs have 60 hours or one week to apply for shifts, one week to six months in the future. “This new system has given staff more time to plan their personal lives and make better arrangements for work,” says Johnson.

Since the shifts are online, Staff Scheduling receives interest only from employees that want to work. In the past this would take Staff Scheduling three to seven hours a day, filling 21 shifts an hour. With the new online tool, one scheduler is able to fill over 100 shifts an hour, using 15 minutes to three hours a day to complete all RN pre-booking shifts for the units they schedule for.

“Our rural office now processes all RN pre-booking shifts at a rate of 1.255 shifts a minute,” Johnson chuckles, “That’s a good day! And we’re only getting started.”

Beginning January 1, SEIU staff in select units will be able to apply online for pre-booking shifts and by March, 31 all SEIU staff will have access to this system.