'Creative' nurse shifts gain traction at Mercy Health hospital

At Mercy Health-St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, Ohio, gone are the traditional scheduling demands for nurses. Instead, nurses get "creative shifts" that fit their needs, Cory Werts, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer for the Lima market, told Becker's.

The hospital — part of Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health — utilizes a centralized staffing and scheduling department that can see the scheduling needs of every unit. This allows Mercy Health-Lima to be as flexible as possible with nurses while ensuring staffing levels are met.

"It helps tremendously because they can see the big picture," she said. "It allows us to offer unconventional schedules while also maintaining the same level of staffing and without needing to hire many new nurses."

The system allows for unconventional shifts such as:

  • 12-hour shifts starting at any time 

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules

  • Schedules for new mothers. These are given to new mothers who are transitioning back into the workplace after an absence. "They have some unique needs that we have tried to fit to the best of our ability, particularly nursing mothers," Ms. Werts said.

  • Flexibility with weekend shifts. Nurses have to work a certain number of weekends, but they choose which ones to work. 

The flexible shifts are available to everyone, though some prefer more traditional schedules. 

"We are doing the best we can to match that organization to individual priorities," Ms. Werts said. "It really is about learning who your people are and doing the best that you can to meet them where they're at and serve them so they can serve your patients."

The flexibility has also aided in the hospital's resignation recovery process. When management learns that a nurse is considering resigning, it immediately responds by offering more flexibility. Ms. Werts said leaders work to meet the nurses' needs for work-life balance however possible.

The flexible scheduling has helped reduce nurse turnover rates from 23% during the height of the pandemic to 12.5% today, she said.

It has also helped reduce what had been a growing experience gap between those who have the experience and those who are coming into the profession. 

"There is a shrinking number of mentors and preceptors as people retire and age out of the profession and a growing volume of people entering nursing who are far younger," Ms. Werts said. "There's this big gap in the middle where we're running out of people to mentor, which creates a barrier to new nurses at the time they need to grow into their nursing shoes." Flexibility is one element that can keep more experienced nurses on to help transfer knowledge to the upcoming generation."

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