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3 tips for healthy schedules in primary care


by Louise Wahlström

The scheduling can be seen as the final step in a comprehensive production planning. This is where the actual implementation is to be planned and the healthcare unit’s needs for patient security, continuity, competence assuring and efficient resource utilization will meet the employees’s need for healthy schedules and the opportunity to influence their working hours. We have prepared three tips for you who is responsible for scheduling at the healthcare centre.

1. Have a clear division of responsibilities when scheduling

Regardless of what type of schedule is being used in the healthcare unit, it is the unit manager that bears the ultimate responsibility for the time schedule. It is the manager who has to make sure that healthy schedules are being put in place and that there are staff in place when there’s illness. In some cases, the manager may delegate the scheduling, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the chief.

When scheduling the focus can’t only be on having sufficient staff in place, but also on the employees’ need for rest as well as making sure that the healthcare unit is staffed with the right competences at the right time. To be able to plan working hours healthily, both managers and employees need relevant knowledge.

Before establishing the schedule it must be checked that:

  • The right competencies are available at every work session.
  • Inexperienced employees work together with experienced employees.
  • Other activities (e.g. own responsibilities, administrative tasks etc.) are arranged according to the agreement.

2. Create flexibility for unforeseen events

Sickness, caring for a sick child or other unforeseen incidents… there are many different reasons why a schedule may need to be changed. Here it is important, to the extent possible, to plan well in advance. But within the Swedish primary care there are no possibilities to call in people spontaneously. There are no reserve lists because specialist competence is needed. This means you just need to change the plan based on the new situation.

The re-planning is the responsibility of the unit manager and the starting point is to go through what visits or tasks a certain employee has on that particular day. It is essential to decide what can be scheduled for another day and what can be taken over by someone else. But even the person responsible for scheduling can get sick. Therefore it is a good idea to make sure that every unit has several employees who are competent and can make changes to the schedule. To have flexibility in the scheduling someone always needs to be able to go in quickly and make the necessary changes.

3. Provide room for a reasonable workload

A survey conducted by the Swedish magazine “Framtidens Karriär – Sjuksköterska” showed that 78 per cent of the nurses surveyed felt that good scheduling and a reasonable workload were the most important factors for staying at a workplace.

Something else that often comes up when healthcare professionals think about their work environment and their situation is that they want to be able to spend more time on patients. An important issue for achieving a good work environment is to reduce administration time for the nurses with the help of modern IT-systems. The time spent by healthcare staff on administration today is considerably higher than a few years ago. Often they log in and out of multiple systems and it requires many clicks for a task to be solved. Scheduling with a reasonable workload in mind is extremely important if you as a unit manager want to retain your staff. It’s important to include both time for administration in the schedule as well as time for rest and skills development.


As a unit manager, you have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that your staff has healthy schedules. It’s up to you to ensure that the right skills are in place at the right time. You should also ensure there is room for flexibility in case of sudden changes in the schedule. Lastly, everyone should have a reasonable workload with room for rest and development.

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