Flexible Schedules Meet Evening Demand and Satisfy Employees at LHC Group | Joint Commission
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Flexible Schedules Meet Evening Demand and Satisfy Employees at LHC Group

May 15, 2017 | 1610 Views

By Brecken Anderson, RN
Regional Operations Director
LHC Group, Coastal Division

For home care nurse managers, maintaining an adequate staffing ratio may be more difficult than planning a NATO summit.

Headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, LHC Group, a national provider of post-acute care, found a solution to the age-old staffing problem on a region-by-region basis. While its 11,000 employees in 26 states must fulfill standards specific to home health, hospice, and community-based services locations, as well as long-term acute care hospitals, staffing complexities differ from state-to-state and even facility-to-facility.

Embracing Flexibility
Like many modern employees, LHC has discarded the notion of the traditional business day and standard 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shift. Employees were granted freedom to start their day as late as 10 or 11 a.m. and clock out at 8 or even 9 p.m. Weekend shifts? No problem!

Administration knew their experiment was a success when the compliments started rolling in from the group’s referral network. The new, later hours made possible by scheduling flexibility ensured that nursing care could be dispatched throughout the day, and that patients discharged from facilities late in the day could have seamless care. Eliminating the hard stop at 5 p.m. saves families the time of contacting the after-hours on-call nurse and maintains the care continuums throughout evenings and weekends.

Not surprisingly, patient engagement scores have increased, as patients and caregivers responded positively to speaking to a “live person” instead of the answering service.

Lessons Learned
The transition—while smooth—hasn’t been without a few bumps along the way.
Managers made sure to emphasize to employees that flexibility with hours did not mean there would be flexibility with quality, and the expectations would be the same at 8 a.m. as they would at 8 p.m. After all, according to Joint Commission Human Resources (HR) Standard HR.01.01.01, a home care organization must have the necessary staff to support the care, treatment, and services it provides.

The importance of a Plan B took on greater prominence. With only a skeleton staff working weekends, for instance, contingency planning for sick days is necessary to guarantee patient commitments would be honored.

Recruiting Reality
As many of LHC’s facilities are working to attract younger talent, the flexible scheduling has been an asset. In metro areas in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, managers hope the flexibility will pay off as grateful employees stay with the organization.

Indeed, many employees who have to get children to school in the morning or just like having their late nights open are singing the praises of the new arrangement. It’s so popular that it’s actually hard to convince employees to work the traditional 8-4:30 shift.

The story’s a little different in rural areas. Employees haven’t embraced the concept of working later.. Luckily, that’s worked out as there hasn’t been nearly as big a demand for services in the evening hours. However, as local branches have the autonomy to respond to field inquiries, they can accurately respond to the region’s needs.

Similarly, weekend availability ebbs and flows according to staff interest in Saturday-Sunday shifts. It’s not a guarantee everywhere, but a value-added for LHC when they can offer care outside the traditional window.

Anecdotally speaking, the flexibility experiment is working. The new hours were just instituted in 2016. Official retention data isn’t available yet but, we’ve observed a downward trend in turnover.

For younger generations, flexible scheduling is becoming an employee expectation, not a perk. We’d love to hear from other facilities who’ve tried a similar tactic. Use our social media networks to share your experience with us!

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