There is a need for clear policies on rostering that define staff levels, skill mix and shift patterns, according to a UK nursing study.
It found that, often, the rules governing how nursing staff were scheduled were “undocumented, tacit and informal”, and warned that the roster process could be “highly politicised” on the ward.
Robert Drake, an associate lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, attempted to contrast the theoretical perceptions of roster constraints with the subjective, often political, rules governing rosters in practice.
His four-year study examined rosters from 28 wards in 14 hospitals, comparing the number and type of unfilled shifts, and the rules defining the roster and how often they were broken. He also interviewed senior nursing staff and ward managers on their experiences.
“Managers must understand that roster design has a major impact on ward performance and must develop clear roster policies that define staff levels, skill mix, shift patterns and the rules used in preparing the roster,” Mr Drake stated in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
He added: “In practice, rostering nursing staff is often unrecognised, unrewarded and undervalued. Yet, despite four decades of research, operations management has little to offer in terms of faster, safer, fairer or more effective rosters.”