As businesses reopen, there is both a need and an opportunity to rethink many healthcare workforce practices. Large and small, emergent and ambulatory, medical and dental organizations—every healthcare organization has changed. Some have been stretched and worn thin on the front lines. Others have been sidelined as elective procedures and appointments were postponed or canceled.

Your workplace looks different—maybe a lot different—from the way it looked in 2019. Plexiglass barriers, fewer congregating spaces, socially distant waiting areas, masked employees, and sanitizing stations are just a few obvious changes.

Processes are different too. Moving patients through the practice safely (for everyone) is a heightened concern. Workers may be split between locations, with some working remote.

No one seems immune from change—not physician groups or dental practices, community health centers, skilled nursing facilities, ambulatory or outpatient care and the groups that support them. Getting new processes right is critical to safety, efficiency and continuing operations.

Employee Scheduling Management Practices

Scheduling has always been important in the healthcare industry to ensure adequate coverage. The already difficult task is now further complicated by rapid changes in patient population, remote work, and unexpected family commitments. Coverage is important, but staggered shifts and isolated teams are critical to limit the risk of a total shutdown.

Even small organizations with low headcount struggle to build schedules that are safe and cost effective. Stress is high when both employee health and business continuity are at stake.

Here are common questions impacting schedules:

  • How do we manage teams for social distancing and still provide excellent patient care?
  • How do we handle supplies without cross-contamination between teams?
  • How can schedulers keep up with changes driven by fluctuations in bed count, patient care level, and healthcare worker absences?
  • How do new rules for patient curbside or car-side testing impact shift schedules?
  • Who can work from home and how do we manage them?
  • Where can we gain efficiencies in clinical settings without compromising patient care?
  • How does telehealth change our scheduling practices?

First, make sure your schedules are available to every employee via their mobile phone. Your employees deserve access to their schedules as soon as possible, wherever they are. If an employee needs time off, qualified employees should know right away that there is a shift open. Schedules are likely to be more dynamic and unpredictable for quite a while, as patient demand and home situations fluctuate.

Key elements of employee scheduling are:

  • Efficient, informed shift assignment. The best schedules consider employee preferences, required certifications/licenses, and compliance rules. An automated system takes the pain out of creating staggered shifts and other social distancing impacts to scheduling. Remember that staff may now also be scheduled for telehealth assignments and may be assigned new patient or work areas through their schedules.
  • Adjustable schedules. Your employee schedules should be flexible. Make it easy to reassign shifts when employees need time off. Better yet, let employees pick up open shifts. That way if you need more hands on deck, you have ready volunteers.
  • Enforceable schedules. Tie your schedules to your timekeeping system. You can keep your teams from overlapping by enforcing clock-in time. You can also see when employees are in the wrong geofenced area.

Timekeeping and Remote Work Best Practices

There are many very practical reasons to track healthcare worker time. The range of skills and compensation levels are immense in healthcare. Timekeeping gives you better insight and control of labor costs and productivity. Employees know what to expect in their paycheck. With employees spread between clinics, nursing facilities, shifts, patient homes, and home offices timekeeping is a must.

Here are some common questions on timekeeping:

  • How can employees clock in wherever they are?
  • How do we make physical clocks safe for our workers?
  • Should we require salaried staff to clock in and out like hourly staff?
  • How do we know if employees are where they should be when they clock in?
  • Can we clock time for an employee who works differently paid positions, like RN and Nurse Manager?

Simply put, what worked before may not suit your new employee schedules and locations. Here are a few key practices you should consider for your go-forward timekeeping.

  • Track all time. Accurate time data sheds light on cash flow, overtime, understaffing and more. Time data serves as an audit trail for labor disputes. Tracking time for employees is also an important way to document eligibility for SBA loan forgiveness under the Payroll Protection Program.
  • Make it easy. Complicated systems are rarely used properly. Make it simple for employees and managers to track and review time data. Automatically record details such as department and position.
  • Pick the right clocks. If you need a physical clock, use one. A touchless clock can help protect your employees from contamination. Be sure to stagger clock-in times and provide sufficient space to allow social distancing. Give remote employees a mobile or web-based option.
  • Capture breaks. Make it easy for employees to clock out for breaks. Keep them from clocking back in too early.
  • Create geofences. Draw a fence around where employees should be at clock in. Verify in real time that they are there.
  • Oversee overtime. See when employees are clocking too many hours, clocking in late, leaving early, applying their hours to the wrong job, and making other mistakes. Catch errors early, correct behaviors, and plan properly to minimize impact on cash flow and milestones.

Leave Management Practices

Time off is an important benefit extended to your employees. Simply tracking overall time off is not sufficient. You need to know your costs. Government programs require businesses to track employee time off by category. Tracking balances and processing requests can be tricky.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to spreadsheets and paper-based systems. Here are some leave-related practices that benefit both employees and business.

  • Document your leave policy. Make sure it meets governing laws and that your employees understand their options.
  • Create leave categories. Capture the reason for leave. Create a separate category to track COVID-related leave in accordance with governing rules for sick, self-imposed or mandated quarantines, family care and childcare.
  • Accrue or allocate by category. You probably accrue time off by either calendar time or hours worked. COVID-related leave categories likely require an allotment rather than accrual.
  • Share balances with employees. Give employees direct online access to their leave balances for all categories of leave. This is a timesaver for all involved. Employees are more likely to submit valid requests, which are less likely to get lost or mishandled.
  • Capture requests online. Let employees request time off online. With easy access to balances, they will make fewer mistakes. Requests won’t get lost and there will be more time to fill the open shift.
  • Analyze leave trends. Managers can use leave data to make important business decisions. For example, if analysis shows more sick leave in the spring, managers can build some redundancy into the spring schedule or do more cross-training to add flexibility in the workforce.

Tie your leave management system into timekeeping and scheduling systems. That way you can see the impact of leave on schedules.

Hiring and Onboarding Practices

Best practices for hiring have changed a lot in the last decade. Online job boards have replaced traditional forms of employment advertising. Making your voice heard above other employers may seem difficult.

Staffing shortages in healthcare makes it imperative that hiring and onboarding be efficient and modern. For many support staff candidates, you are competing with employers outside the industry. You may need to hire temps, agencies, and contractors to supplement permanent staff. Certifications and licensing are crucial. Greater numbers of rehabilitation specialists and home health workers may be needed for patients recovering at home.

Here are some steps you can take to win the race for talent.

  • Post to multiple job boards. The more places candidates can find you the better. Use an automated applicant tracking system to simplify the process and save time.
  • Automate prescreening. An applicant tracking system can automatically evaluate each application and resume. This prescreening accelerates initial evaluation and saves time for both administrators and managers.
  • Interview. Coordinate for simultaneous or consecutive video interviews and gather feedback on each candidate. Feedback ratings are combined to help identify the best candidate for the job offer.
  • Communicate. Be sure to stay in touch with the candidate throughout the hiring process with phone calls, email or text. Studies show that text is often the most successful channel of communication with younger applicants.
  • Make your offer. The finish line is in sight, but there is critical work ahead. You need to run background checks and drug screens, plus confirm all certifications and licenses. Automate these processes to quickly convert candidates into new hires.
  • Onboard new hire. Onboarding begins with paperwork: tax forms, direct deposit details, personal and emergency contact information, and the company handbook. Automated onboarding ensures consistency and gets paperwork out of the way so employees can focus on their job.

Additional HR Processes and Engagement Practices

Many common healthcare processes were modified to deal with ‘on-the-ground’ realities in early 2020. Now these changes must be codified into processes and procedures that can help your organization move through the coming months.

  • Training. Nurse lines are overloaded with emotional, stressed patients. Changes impact patient transportation, follow up care, home care and rehabilitation. More training and process are required.
  • Patient and staff safety. Security teams and staff need training on how to keep contagious patients away from other patients and visitors.
  • Compliance. Your compliance programs must meet the changing requirements of federal, state and local agencies including OSHA, FLSA, ACA, CDC, NIH and more.
  • Certification and licensing. As you onboard and reboard healthcare staff, make sure their certificates and licenses are current and match the new needs of the organization and its patients.
  • PPE handling. Shipping/receiving, donning/doffing, ordering and stockpiling policies related to PPE must be revised.
  • Telehealth. Processes for when telehealth is used for virtual patient visits, rounds, physician consultation, or even active instruction during a patient procedure should be clear.
  • Cleaning. New procedures for deep cleaning all clinical and administrative spaces are required.
  • Staff morale. You will need to actively engage staff and reengage furloughed employees to avoid burnout and turnover.

Tools for New Workforce Practices

View your workforce practices from a new perspective. Adopt new practices for timekeeping, leave management, employee scheduling, and hiring/onboarding. These changes will give you advantages for years to come.

SwipeClock specializes in Human Resources Management System software for small and medium-sized business. Our customers rely on us for hiring and applicant tracking, onboarding and HR management, time and attendance tracking and employee scheduling.

  • Time & Attendance Tracking. TimeWorksPlus makes attendance tracking simple and accurate, providing the insight and record you need to manage your workforce. Now it is easy to comply with leave, overtime, shift length, and break rules.
  • Leave Management Tracking. You set the categories you need and the rules for accrual or allocation. Your employees submit requests for sick, vacation, family first coronavirus response, or other leave using mobile devices. TimeWorksPlus keeps a complete record, so you have insight into PTO balances and proof of compliance.
  • Employee Scheduling. Schedulers rely on TimeSimplicity to help them build predictive schedules that allow last minute changes. Schedules are more transparent and adaptive, boosting attendance and morale for all.
  • Hiring and Onboarding. Streamline your hiring process and stay in touch by texting. Begin new hire onboarding right away with ApplicantStack.
  • HR Management. WorkforceHUB automates key HR workflows including onboarding, document distribution, and performance reviews. Give your employees 24/7 access to their payroll records including pay stubs, W2/1099/1095, address, W4, and direct deposit details. Keep employees in the know. Engage them with surveys, rewards and regular communications.

SwipeClock products are easy to setup and use. Your team can be up and running quickly and completely touch-free. Our software is entirely cloud based. Our physical clocks, if needed, are easy to install. There are no extensive training requirements.

Began writing at age seven and never stopped. Devoted decades to content strategy, communications and digital media. Dabbler in all things, including cycling, piano, ukulele, and art.
Kari Johnson