1. Mar, Cynthia

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Everyone knows how quickly patient needs can change. Whether a patient recovers faster than expected or experiences an unforeseen complication, hospitals must be able to instantly react to these shift-by-shift changes and staff appropriately.


At Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, we tackled this challenge by integrating our patient classification and staff scheduling systems. As a 269-bed acute-care hospital, we employ more than 2,050 staff members-each with a unique set of skills, certifications, and strengths. Our integrated approach to staff scheduling allows us to take our acuity and census data and translate it into the best use of this variety of skills to deliver the highest possible standard of patient care.


We implemented a patient classification system in 2000, shortly before California became the first state to institute mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. Since that time, we've worked on an ongoing basis with our staff scheduling vendor to create multiple customized reports as needed that provide a snapshot of our staffing needs based on the most up-to-date acuity information. If additional resources are needed, our staff scheduling application allows us to respond immediately and to quickly identify qualified employees-whether they're floaters, employees from an overstaffed unit, or nurses on call.


In addition to providing a proactive look at what staffing levels are needed, this integration will give managers a historical perspective on staffing and productivity levels. By examining the development of trends, such as relatively high census levels on particular days of the week, we're able to forecast our future needs and budget more appropriately. We can also identify when adjustments need to be made to our internal processes. For example, if we notice the regular use of overtime in a certain unit, it may indicate the need to increase staffing levels for the future.


By enabling our acuity and staff scheduling systems to share information, we'll improve both our utilization of staff resources as well as our ability to track and measure staff productivity levels. We've also improved morale among staff members by ensuring our employee resources are used both fairly and equitably. As industry and government organizations continue to promote the use of patient classification systems nationwide, we're confident that other hospitals will benefit from a similar integrated approach to staff scheduling.