service planning: Sudoku for professionals

Care is almost always in the layer service. While I write these lines, working around the globe, an incredible number of nurses for their patients. 365 days in a year. 24 hours of the day. With me on the ward the morning passes just service to the late service. It is a continuous operation. An interesting idea.

This type of work will be scheduled. There are a variety of methods and concepts, such as service plans and layers need to be organized. Many “specialists” have their own recommendations and Beliefs. Further, this construct is limited by legal and collective regulations. Also the fact that many employees are part-time and your flexibility is restricted, makes it difficult to good service planning.

With us in the house

In the clinic, a Three-layer model. Although there are many different between layers, and special services to certain rest periods to be observed, divides the Grid coarse in the early service, late service, and night service.

We have on Station the scheme is that every second weekend is guaranteed to service is free. This scheme is only interrupted by special events (vacations, holidays). The advantage is that each employee knows in theory that he would have to work, for example, on the first weekend in March 2020. The disadvantage is that the employee must exchange their week independently with each other, should you be in need of a service weekend “free”. My Team is divided in two weekend groups. From this pattern of Service from seven to three days of work arise automatically, interrupted by two days.

What to consider

Now it is not in an ICU, only the number of heads that are present. There are a variety of different requirements are to be observed. Not everyone should or can do everything. Also the mix of different professional experiences and qualifications and taken into account in the planning. New colleagues Training, trainees, Specialist trainees, aspiring rescue workers and interns need to be planned and allocated.

Also, continuing education and training, compulsory training courses, foreign assignments and the holiday planning has to be taken into account. The most serious is that employees naughty way of life Yes only for work. It is supposed to actually give people who want a private life. Sounds weird, is it?

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Who wants what and when?

In a time in which a nurse can pick and choose due to the lack of skilled workers their jobs, employee orientation is of great importance. The service and recreational planning an employee gets a very high priority. A service plan is a balancing act, between service needs and a responsible use of time of the employee. On my Station we use three instruments.

  1. Time factor: Therefore, an employee can plan ahead, always stand in the service plans for a quarter. That is to say, the next three months, the employee can plan his schedule and, where appropriate, services exchange.
  2. Month-to-month request plan: Here, you can, and each employee had to fill five roster requests with priority. Although my Deputy try to representation, and to allow I, further wish touch on all of these but the service planning of other colleagues, priority is given to a logical follow-up Service.
  3. The framework plan: An employee has once Häkelkurs in the week on Wednesday? Fits! Individual preferences can be stated here. A staff member is making rather early services late services or night services? How many? How often in a month?

From all the above-mentioned information, we may conjure up a homogenous and fair service plan. My delegate and I alternate every month with the service planning.

Now it can go

Now what I like to call “Sudoku for professionals” starts. In a first step, all wishes will be entered in the service plan program. Thankfully, we make the service of planning today on the Computer. This saves a lot of computing, and to facilitate the Overview immensely. The services are displayed in the program, in different colours, with Numbers. All requests are transmitted, it goes into Detail.

From various studies we know that the forward exchange are to be preferred. This means that early services, late services, and then in the night service will be changed. At the night service should be followed by a long phase. Short change-over from the night service should be avoided. Here it comes to the health and the load of the peers.

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So beautiful this is in theory, impossible to this imagination in the service plan can be realized for all. By the fixed weekends for more challenges. At the same time, we try to minimize unfavorable exchange, and a short free phases in the planning.


When I’m not with the distribution of all employees done, I see most of the time, I still have many single services are missing. Now, the bedload begins. Here one day more, another point for another day of work… At the office of a colleague in the early service, the other one is from the early service late service.

Now, once again, a look at the qualifications. Spread the layers evenly, or there are days where only young or inexperienced to care for forces in the service? Here, too, may need to be improved. Are assigned to all Training and trainees, a qualified trainer?

After a few hours of work, you can always find less gaps. Now a quick check on the hours of the accounts of the employees. Someone has to work Overtime, which must be mined? Employees minus hours and must be scheduled in additional services? The members have then yet enough rest periods? Is planned for every employee in all three layers? This is for the Fairness and the compensation is important.


Now I distribute special services for employees who perform special tasks for the Station. For this you need of course, time the possibility. Then check if you can distribute extra vacation days in order to allow colleagues a “longer Free”.

A former Manager once said to me: “I always check each individual service plan of the employees and check whether I could work.” This method I have copied from me. The Plan is homogeneously distributed, and all the layers with the necessary number of employees are occupied, I go to each employee individually and see if I could or wanted to.

Finally, once a controlling view on the plan and the framework plan. I was able to allow all requests?

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If not, what is the reason?

My experience shows: I am after a day of the service planning “numbers blind”. For this reason, I leave the Plan, then rest for a day. Then once again check everything. If everything fits, is printed the Plan and posted or made accessible to employees.

The Reactions

Now the Wait begins for the storm. There are little things that can be discussed passionately, as service plans. At approx. 930 services per month, the probability is very great that you have something to be overlooked or forgotten. This is to be human. Nevertheless, the employees expect of course that you know your individual preferences and, where possible, observed. The Illusion to be able to with a Plan, every employee happy, unfortunately. But from time to time, to write plans, you should also be proud of.

The first week after a Plan is posted, and will continue to be crafted well and pushed. The E-Mail mailboxes from my delegates and me are running hot. Regularly we are faced with employees, with a mixture of Anger and accusation on things that are not like them. Other colleagues in the Initiative and to exchange, always in consultation with the leadership team, kicking each other the services. Where this is not possible, we support. The aim is, in the end, the hope is that everyone can be satisfied.

At the end of the day

The theme of the service plan is complex. Many surveys show that it is the perfect Plan for each. But the planning in a transparent, fair and in the interests of the Station and the employee’s aligned, then you can shift services also have many benefits. For me, the wishes of the employees here have priority. As management, I’m in need of your support.

The experience shows that The service plan never stays the way it was written. Diseases and unplanned events force us to rework almost daily. Here, I need my staff so that together we can achieve our goal: A fair distribution of the work load on everyone’s shoulders. It is a Give and Take.

Photo: Fotolia / Monkey Business