Ensure Clinician Shift Coverage During Summer Vacations

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nurse on vacation - shift coverage needed

Summer has begun and healthcare organizations’ clinicians will be taking their much-needed time off in the coming weeks. To comply with patient-staffing ratios and uphold your standards of care, healthcare organizations need to ensure shift coverage when employees are out on vacation.

If you don’t plan ahead, managing shift coverage can be a nightmare. However, human resources can work with function managers and enlist the help of contingent healthcare staffing firms to maintain sufficient patient care.

What Are Your Vacation Policies?

Begin by taking a look at your organization and any policies you have related to vacations and time off. To make sure you are set up for success, we talked to Lydia Pitts, Director of Talent Acquisition at Cleveland Clinic, who shares some strategies her team has in place:

  • Each unit at the hospital has a vacation calendar based on staff seniority.
  • A predetermined maximum number of staff are allowed to be approved for vacation days at any given time.
  • Holidays are split evenly across the department. When a new hire joins the organization, it’s determined which holiday schedule they would follow.
  • Most units have floating protocols to account for unplanned absences. The unit that is staffed the best would be expected to float staff to that area.

Plan Ahead for Shift Coverage

Mike Wejrowski, vice president and general manager of HealthcareSource Contingent Talent ManagementSM, suggests human resources professionals plan in advance for any short-term or long-term vacancies at the hospital.

For example, you can use a “float pool,” like Cleveland Clinic does, to fill random shifts or long-term assignments. But if your organization doesn’t have such a program in place, then HR should call upon the services of a local contingent staffing agency for short-term needs (like vacation time), suggests Wejrowski, noting that national agencies are a great source for long-term vacancies, such as the Family & Medical Leave Act.

Integrate Your Contingent Staff for Shift Coverage the Right Way

You want those filling in for shift coverage to offer a seamless experience for your patients. Develop onboarding and orientation materials to ensure the contingent staff members are aware of your organization’s procedures, culture, and standards of patient care. You can even offer specialized training and development programs to motivate these workers to perform at their highest level.

As you would with your full-time employees, recognize the good work your contingent staff members do. This small gesture will enhance their motivation and integration into the hospital. Plus, you will build your organization’s reputation as a great place to work in healthcare — both for contingent and permanent staff.

By partnering up with the right contingent healthcare staffing agency and getting ahead with strategic workforce planning, a healthcare organization is free to focus on patient care without the worry of inadequate shift coverage due to employees’ vacation schedules.


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Leo Suarez

About Leo Suarez

Leo Suarez is a Miami, Florida-based freelance copywriter and blogger who has more than 12 years experience in the healthcare industry. Aside from healthcare, he also writes about technology and marketing content for B2B companies and entrepreneurs. He earned his bachelor's degree in business from Florida International University. Leo is also working on his first sci-fi novel titled "The Ancestor "and is a big movie buff.