Ways to Optimize Open Shift Management | Workforce Management

January 17, 2023

Often, what some consider a miracle is only possible through effective and strategic management. 

The same applies to managing open shifts in healthcare. Against popular belief, handling open shifts doesn’t need to be complicated. 

In reality, there is still a tremendous amount of time and money wasted in the traditional processes involved in filling open shifts. One of the leading causes of provider burnout can be a lack of effective open-shift management in your healthcare organization. 

In simpler terms, if there is a constant frantic last-minute scramble to find staff to pick up critical open shifts on an impromptu basis, then you are doing something wrong (no matter how much time you spend working on staff schedules).

If your organization often defects to last-minute inefficient open shift practices, the results can be chaotic and breed unhealthy competition within providers. Instead, you should create a system that promotes better collaboration while managing open shifts within the facility. 

Without a doubt, you want to fill your open shifts in the most efficient, cost-effective, and proactive manner. 

This article will give you just what you need to optimize open-shift management within your healthcare organization.

Best Practices to Optimize Open Shift Management

Suppose your staffing office can hardly be differentiated from a phone bank with your staffing officers constantly on calls with your providers to ask them to come to fill an open emergency shift. 

Here are the best practices to deal with administrative lag caused by open shifts.

Ensure Managers and Staff Work Collaboratively

Involving your staff in scheduling decisions is always a good idea since they are the ones that do the work in the first place. However, not engaging them can easily lead to dissatisfaction for your staff and, eventually, burnout. 

Instituting a platform that promotes easy collaboration with your healthcare administrators and practitioners will create a more dynamic working system, reduce burnout, and create a comfortable working environment for your healthcare workers. 

Eliminate the Heavy Reliance on Phone Calls

Inefficient scheduling practices often put staff managers and health administrators in desperation. Particularly when searching for a last-minute practitioner to fill critical open shifts. Staff managers will refer to their haphazardly prepared calling list to search for qualified practitioners to fill the emergency role. 

The volume of phone calls required to get a suitable practitioner for the required roles is time-consuming and less productive. Not to mention leaving the practitioners frustrated due to the distractions these calls can bring to their personal life. 

One way to eliminate the need for constant phone calls is to use software solutions with push notification capability. 

Your healthcare managers and administrators identify the skill needed to fill each open shift and send push notifications to them. 

Promote a Facility-wide Visibility and Cooperation

Making sure staff managers are fully aware and updated on the staffing needs of all units within your facility will give them the ability to see the whole picture. 

With a holistic knowledge of the staffing needs within the healthcare organization, managers are empowered enough to optimize staffing to fill open shifts quickly. 

Become More Proactive Than Reactive

One major thing that will make open shift management easier is filling most open shifts ahead of time. Staff managers ought to be more futuristic in thinking than only being adaptive in their actions. 

Proactively discover potential situations where open shifts occur and plan for them in advance. You can notify your staff in advance to be well prepared for the shift. Technology can be a great aid in seeing forecasted staffing needs.

Reward Staff Fairly and Consistently 

Transparency is highly needed for fairness to thrive. Implementing reward systems in your open sift program is a welcomed idea that boosts staff motivation. But this motivation can be easily sabotaged if there is a perception of lack of fairness in the program. 

Indeed, an open shift program will reward staff who can work in other departments —but clearly defining the protocols for your open-shift structure and automating the implementation where possible makes it more transparent and reduces perceptions of unfairness by your staff.  

Offering a one-off bonus or incentives should not be encouraged. Instead, your open shift program should implement a planned reward system with criteria clearly defined to all under a specific budget. 

Also, your managers should make the highest incentive offered for filling a shift as much as two weeks - 30 days before the shift. This will encourage proactiveness in covering the open shift and reduce last-minute fixes.

Use the Right Technology to Support the Process

Technological solutions directly or indirectly aid most of the points discussed above. Achieving effective open shift management within your healthcare organization will be close to impossible without technology. 

Using software solutions to drive your open shift program aids collaboration and streamlines the process for all parties involved. It also aids data-driven decision-making for the staff managers. 

In summary, using software solutions to solve your staffing problems will 

  •  Make it more accessible to proactively spot open shifts ahead of time 
  • Aid communication with staff qualified to fill the open-shift
  •  Make it easier for staff to pick the shifts based on their schedule, thereby aiding their work-life balance 
  •  Making it easier for the staff managers to approve and notify staff who requested the open shift. 

Without technology, this four-phased process will be much more complicated than it looks. 


There are many ways to schedule contingency resources, and an open shift is just one of them. However, it is very effective when standardized, automated, and streamlined for everyone.

Designing an open shift management program takes careful planning and preparation, but it often pays off when management alignment is strong and clearly defined communication.

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