Operating rooms and procedural areas are the lifeblood of every healthcare organization. They employ some of the world’s most advanced, cutting- edge technology, such as minimally invasive surgery, sophisticated image guidance and robotics. This technology allows patients to receive high quality, high-tech care that facilitates speedy recoveries from even the most complex procedures. 


When patients go in for a surgery, it seems like all the pieces of the puzzle just fall into place. There are staff available to assist with the procedure, physicians ready for the surgery and the operating room is available for use. Coordinating all these pieces is an important part of delivering top-quality care.  

Despite widespread adoption of technology in surgery, most departments still schedule their providers using paper, Excel spreadsheets, or antiquated systems. Perioperative scheduling plays a significant role in hospital profitability by ensuring the OR is staffed appropriately to generate revenue. Using outdated scheduling processes to create staff and call schedules as well as daily operating room assignments is inefficient, costly, and error prone. It can also lead to coverage gaps, fatigue and burnout, engagement and morale issues that can potentially compromise patient safety.

Operating Room

Work Culture in the Perioperative Department 

The current workforce climate has led to a nursing shortage that will have significant effects on healthcare organizations across the country. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2016-2026, there will be a need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and replace retiring nurses. This shortage of healthcare workers has had a substantial impact on the perioperative department. According to a survey of more than 3,700 perioperative nurses conducted by the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) in 2018, 73% reported the OR nurse shortage has had a moderate-to-crisis effect on their working environment. To add on, 28% of respondents indicated they were likely or very likely to quit in the next year, listing dissatisfaction with work environment/culture as their top reason for quitting. According to the 2019 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, for the seventh straight year, RNs in Surgical Services continued to be the most difficult to recruit. On average, it took 79 to 108 days to fill an experienced OR RN.  

Employee Engagement in the Perioperative Department 

So, what does this all mean? The numbers show that prioritizing employee engagement helps organizations retain their best employees and boosts performance across the organization. According to Gallup, organizations in the top employee engagement quartile are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. With surgery departments delivering a significant percentage of a hospital’s revenue, boosting employee engagement in this department should be an area of focus for all healthcare executives.  

Employee Scheduling in the Perioperative Department 

Automated scheduling technology helps streamline staffing in the ORs and procedural areas, saving time, reducing errors and improving staff morale. According to a recent Kronos survey, 60% of nurses answered that if they had more say in their shift scheduling, they would have a better work/life balance, and 55% agreed that having more control over their schedules would help alleviate fatigue. By automating the time-consuming scheduling process, technology can help create and manage staff schedules, complex call schedules and daily OR assignments. The auto population capabilities built into the solution allows you to create shift and call schedules that draw on your custom staffing rules and optimize your employees’ preferences.  

Integration with the EMR and surgical scheduling systems enables you to more effectively manage the OR schedule in real-time and ensures you always have the right people in the right places at the right time. This allows staff to see what cases they’re overseeing and which surgeon they will work with to prepare for surgery the next day.

Providing staff access online or through a mobile app to easily view their schedule, swap assignments and make schedule requests improves fairness, resulting in enhanced work/life balance. By putting the schedule in the hands of the staff, they will have real-time visibility into their scheduling information anytime and from anywhere, which supports staff satisfaction and preparation as well as enhances patient care and safety. University Medical Center (UMC) in Lubbock, Texas saw significant results by automating their staffing and scheduling processes in the perioperative department.

By implementing the technology, they saw their employee satisfaction scores increase from 83% to 96%, which were the highest scores their department had ever received. With technology advancements, employees are expecting the same easy-to-use applications they use in their personal lives. By not adopting staffing and scheduling technology in the perioperative department, organizations are missing out on an easy way to boost employee engagement.  

Staffing and scheduling technology created specifically for the perioperative environment should be viewed as vital infrastructure that delivers significant value for patients, providers, administrators and organizations.

Click here to learn about how you can transform your perioperative staffing and scheduling process

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2020