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Some hospitals and nurses are finding each other through shift bidding, a kind of employment eBay. To participate in shift bidding, a nurse logs on to a hospital's Web site and views all empty shifts in various units. He then makes an offer to work one of the vacant shifts for a rate within a range that the hospital posts. The lowest bidder with appropriate skills wins the bid and works the shift.


Most bidders are hospital employees. Nurses who aren't employed by the hospital must pass a hospital orientation process before they're eligible to bid.

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Shift bidding is a relatively new tool that hospitals are using to maintain adequate nurse staffing and improve retention. The system gives a hospital's nurses more control over when they work and how much they earn.


Since it launched online shift bidding in 2001, St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, N.Y., has reportedly filled more than 127,000 nursing hours and saved more than $1.7 million. Its overall nurse vacancy rate decreased from 11% to 5%. The average bid at St. Peter's is $37 an hour, which is about 30% higher than the base rate paid to RNs but less than the average $49 an hour that agency nurses earn.