How to overcome over and understaffing

Staffing can be a challenge at the best of times. Striking the right balance of staff in a healthcare setting is imperative in meeting the needs of patients - overstaffing becomes expensive, an inefficient use of resources and understaffing can lead to poor patient care and disgruntled staff.

We know it’s not easy.  

The last 18 months have probably been the hardest ever, with healthcare settings finding that their usual rota management processes aren’t holding up in the face of high levels of sick leave, rapidly increasing demand, and other changes brought about by social distancing rules. This challenge is set to continue as the NHS gears up for further periods of high demand in the autumn and winter.  A proactive approach to staffing is a must.
 

Why is understaffing and overstaffing a big problem?

Unscheduled absenteeism is one of the most common reasons for understaffing, something which has been hard to avoid recently with staff having to self-isolate. Understaffed shifts may force managers to fill shift positions with employees who are not the best fit. This can affect quality of care and morale as staff have too much to do and is not tenable in the long term.   You don’t want to add to feelings of being overwhelmed and overworked.

When you’re overstaffed you start to become inefficient as staffing costs shoot up and you’re also in danger of disengaging your staff.  


Five tips to solve issues around overstaffing or understaffing

It is more than likely that in your healthcare setting you will see fluctuating demand – periods of high ‘traffic’ followed by unexpected quiet periods.  The key thing is to be able to anticipate these peaks in advance with a bit of forward planning.

  1. Using data
    Data is one of the keys to balancing your workforce.  Data is knowledge and can help guide your staffing conundrums.  For example, if data shows that you are consistently scheduling overtime, your organization is too lean. Having the capability to look back at previous months’ shifts and a bit of forward thinking will help pre-empt staffing needs. Planning your rotas with data insights as a starting point, will help drive up shift fill rates and patient safety.
     
  2. Rota software
    Hand in hand with data comes software.  Having a staff rota system in place will help you avoid much of the cost and frustration that comes with balancing your staffing needs.

    Software that allows you to see at a glance who is scheduled, and what their skills are, will allow you to fill in gaps before they become an issue meaning your shifts will operate efficiently, especially important in a setting where staff are not easily interchangeable. 

    Effective scheduling systems can produce error-free schedules covering shifts with the most skilled while delivering flexibility to handle departmental needs. 
     
  3. Increase shift lead times
    Generally speaking the more notice you give, the more likely your staff are to turn up for work.  Staff need time to plan family commitments such as childcare, caring for a relative or studying for example.
     
  4. Recruitment and training
    Having a recruitment strategy is vital to balancing your workforce and planning for busy periods needs to happen well in advance.  This will help with the time lag which comes with recruiting and onboarding staff.

    Remember getting new staff on board can take longer than you may think when you include induction and familiarisation periods.  
     
  5. Open lines of communication and access to the rota 
    Your staff need to know they can communicate with you openly. An open and consistent approach to communication leads to better team working and a greater understanding of what is expected of people.

    Equally important is prompt communication to your staff on rotas. Mobile-ready rota software will help hugely with this taking any burden of communicating rotas away. 

Contact us to discuss how our rota software can help your healthcare setting balance its staffing needs.