Staff Planning with Unpredictable Patient Loads


If you manage HR for a hospital, you know how critical staff planning in healthcare is — both to patient outcomes and in maintaining compliance with stringent industry standards and changing regulations. 


Many hospital systems already require a certain number of employees at each unit, location, or facility based on current patient load. For example, your hospital may mandate that the ICU have five physicians on the floor, plus a certain ratio of charge nurses, regular RNs, CNAs, and specialists to the number of patients at any given time, a number which is constantly in flux. 


Outside of hospitals setting their own staffing standards, 14 states (and counting) have implemented some kind of safe staffing laws that either require a general plan to manage the nurse-to-patient ratio or a minimum ratio to be maintained at all times. 


Staying on top of laws, concerns around physician shortages, and even hospital downsizing and budget cuts can turn staff planning into a jigsaw puzzle — and not the fun kind. And the general staff shortages caused by the pandemic this past year hasn’t made it any easier. 


Where hospital staffing systems fall short

While many hospitals use sophisticated scheduling and time management tools for staff planning, these tools can still leave significant gaps in the scheduling process. Consider the fact that the larger your hospital, the more HR and business systems you probably have. But more systems usually mean less visibility simply because there’s so much to see, track, and reconcile that inevitably important information gets missed. And if your systems are disconnected from each other, as many are, this only adds to the confusion.  


Aligning your staffing plan with approved budgets isn’t a picnic either. The process is frequently handled in a spreadsheet, making it difficult to know which positions you need to staff and which employees are currently in them. 


Because a spreadsheet can’t reflect real-time staffing changes, anytime an employee joins a team, transfers from another facility, or leaves your organization entirely, the spreadsheet is automatically out of sync until someone can update it. This puts the spreadsheet method at odds with whatever workforce management system you use that tells your HR team how many employees and at which credential levels your hospital is supposed to have. 


The result? More disorganization and chaos. And in the healthcare industry, no one can afford to live with chaos for long.


To alleviate these woes and create greater hospital staffing predictability and visibility, you need a human capital management (HCM) system with broad position management capabilities designed to serve a hospital system’s unique needs. 


How position management drives staffing predictability

At a high level, position management allows you to survey which jobs you need to fill and how those jobs are defined and organized within the overall hospital structure. On a more practical level, position management is a data-driven, position-focused process that uses current and historical information about recruitment, job listings, skills and credentialing needs, labor costs, and compensation levels to help you make informed staffing decisions that align with headcount, budgets, and business goals.


Automating the flow of data between your existing workforce management and payroll tools and an integrated HCM solution with built-in performance management capabilities gives you real-time, on-demand snapshots of information that are critical for planning. It also eliminates the need to pull from multiple databases and rely on inefficient spreadsheets — along with the confusion, time, and headaches associated with them.


The richly detailed information that’s the foundation of a position management approach gives a multitude of people in your organization — from HR to executives to business managers — a far more accurate sense of current staffing challenges and future trends so everyone knows how to plan and adjust, both in the immediate future and down the road. 


An HCM solution that hospitals can count on 

Patient loads may fluctuate, but hospital staff planning is a complex process that has to stay tightly organized and must rely on accurate, updated information to run units at optimal capacity. An HCM solution like SyncHR that incorporates the right position management architecture needed for a hospital’s structure, budget concerns, and business objectives, along with easy integration into existing tools and systems, makes staff planning a much smoother, more efficient process.


Tools such as a dynamic organizational chart, live staff plans, and actual vs. projected headcount and budget help your HR team understand which employees are in which positions, which roles are still open, and the level of credentialing required for each role (MD, NP, PA, etc.). 


With robust automation, reporting, and analytics, you can get a real-time view into which positions you need to fill and where, and when to add or reduce staff. Managers and executives can also perform deep analysis to create models that help them understand everything from employee turnover rates to long-term employment trends to the overall state of the hospital’s business. The result is greater visibility, efficiency, and cost savings that not only improve staffing predictability but can translate into better team morale, compliance, and even patient care. 


To learn more about how position management increases hospital staffing predictability and visibility, download the white paper.  



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John Cuellar

John Cuellar

John is responsible for SyncHR’s product, engineering, and system operations teams. He is focused on streamlining the business processes related to HCM and finance by distributing SyncHR to all members of the workforce and by using patented security and workflow to control these developments. John is also responsible for delivering SyncHR as a cloud based application with “extreme ratio” financial metrics.

He has a background in engineering, workplace applications, and business administration, bringing over 25 years of experience deploying strategic HCM applications. Prior to co-founding SyncHR, John was the CEO of Harbor Technologies, since acquired by Mellon Financial Corporation. Previous to Harbor Technology Group, he spent an internship with the Swiss Bank Corporation in their derivatives pricing and trading group and also worked as a senior manager for the US Navy. John received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his Master of Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

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