Staffing metrics that matter

The overabundance of available data in this digital age is both a blessing and curse.

Meaningful insights are waiting to be unlocked in healthcare staffing data, but the struggle is knowing where to look and how to harness the information for actionable insights. For those in healthcare leadership positions, it’s a constant balancing act of monitoring financial targets and ensuring high quality patient care takes precedence.

With so many staffing metrics to monitor, here are three to have on your radar:

• Overtime
• Incidental worked time
• FTE leakage

Overtime
Overtime has its time and place in nearly every industry. But excessive overtime is a pain point for many organizations, burning out employees and driving up labor costs. In general, a healthy overtime average for a typical provider organization sits around 3 percent or below. Anything above that should call leadership’s attention to what is causing it.

Managing incidental worked time (IWT)
One metric that offers a significant savings opportunity that is easily overlooked is incidental worked time (IWT). This refers to the amount of time a staff member is on the clock before or after the start or end of their original shift of during a scheduled meal break.

Because there are legitimate and unpreventable circumstances that can lead to incidental worked time, such as providing safe patient care during a shift transition or working on charting, most organizations have a reasonable tolerance level. But recurring incidents by repeat offenders are avoidable and should be addressed by leadership.

Examining workflow processes to ensure smooth transitions from one shift to another is one effective method for eliminating preventable IWT. Additionally, identifying teams achieving consistently low IWT may model best practice workflow and process improvement opportunities for similarly-situated departments.

Full-time equivalent (FTE) leakage
FTE leakage refers to the hours lost due to staff not being scheduled to their FTE commitment. For example, if a staff member carries a 0.9 FTE commitment, he or she is expected to work 72 hours within a two-week period. In one week, this employee works 36 hours, but in week two they are only scheduled for two, 12-hour shifts. The FTE leakage caused by their failure to either work or submit benefit time is 12 hours. As a result of these lost hours, FTE leakage creates a unit or department to run short, or call in more expensive contingency resources.

Routinely monitoring workforce metrics allows managers to effectively track their unit’s progress toward organizational goals. Holding staff accountable and establishing best practices sets departments on the path to reducing occurrences of staff being on the clock more than clinically necessary – improving productivity and reducing excessive labor costs.

Data analytics have become a necessary piece of workforce planning. If you are not utilizing data to make staffing decisions, an awful lot is riding on your gut feeling. Solutions and tools continue to evolve, making data science understandable and user-friendly for those not backed with advanced knowledge of statistics methodology.

But organizations must be knowledgeable about how to access and use their data correctly. Analytics software and dashboards are only useful when the information gleaned is put into action. Without identifying key optimization opportunities and guidance on how to apply best practice strategies, data is just numbers.

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