BJC HealthCare's approach to flexible scheduling for nurses

Amid today's staff shortages and other workforce challenges, it is more crucial than ever that hospitals and health systems have a leg up when it comes to recruiting and retaining nurses. And multiple organizations are increasingly examining options that provide workplace flexibility and support.

Take St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare, for example. The 14-hospital health system, which has more than 30,000 employees, including about 6,800 nurses, began piloting its new flexible staffing and scheduling app Jan. 31 at its Missouri Baptist Medical Center and Christian Hospital, both in St. Louis.

BJC HealthCare's digital team developed the app to make it easier and more efficient for nurses to schedule their shifts. Under the pilot program, nurses at participating hospitals may schedule 12-hour shifts using their iPhone, Android or tablet.

"The pilot is to test whether they can schedule 12 hours," Tommye Austin, PhD, MSN, RN, senior vice president for patient care systems and chief nurse executive for BJC HealthCare, told Becker's

Once a nurse has scheduled a 12-hour shift, the app sends a message to the managing timekeeper for the nurse's department indicating that the shift has been filled, she said.

Dr. Austin, who has experience as a med-surg nurse, said the health system has multiple goals in developing the app, including providing flexibility around staffing and scheduling. 

"We're focused on a couple of areas, but specifically with the flexible staffing, it's about, how do we reduce our vacancies? How [does the health system] reduce our agency spend? How do we open shifts quickly? We know there's competition in the market, so if I don't have some type of way to give the nurses something easy to sign on with, they might go [elsewhere]," she said.

BJC HealthCare aims to roll the app out systemwide in May during National Nurses Week. Eventually, the organization also aims for nurses to be able to schedule four-hour and eight-hour shifts as needed. 

"We want to do it during National Nurses Week. We want our nurses to have something to celebrate. What better thing to do than to give them a tool that makes their life easier?" said Dr. Austin.

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