Nurses work hard and they deserve a break. That’s why it can be especially troubling when you have to deny them a weekend or holiday off. Or when you can’t accommodate a last-minute shift change request.
Your inability to do so is understandable. You’ve spent hours – or days – creating the perfect nurse schedule, and any change is hard to accommodate. You must prevent overtime, ensure fairness across your staff, and make sure you have the right people with the right experience and skills assigned to every shift. Those types of decisions are hard to make quickly, and it often is just easier to deny any changes.
The problem with saying “No”
Each time you deny a time-off request, you’re taking a chance that nurses call off sick anyway. If you say “No” enough, some nurses may generally stop asking for shift changes and time off, and instead, go straight to calling off sick. Ultimately, you are left short-staffed.
Fortunately, most nurses won’t do either, because they are committed to their jobs, their employer and their patients, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it. Regularly denying nurses more work/life balance and control over their schedule leads to burnout and lowered morale, both of which are leading causes of turnover.
Set ground rules to curb the problem
Establishing policies and putting a structure in place will limit the amount of inappropriate time-off requests you receive, while also enabling you to plan and schedule more effectively.
For example, clearly explain to staff:
• How to submit a time-off request or shift change. Do you want them to speak to you in person? Send an email? Text?
• How far in advance employees should request time off. Many nurse managers are completing their schedules two, three and four weeks in advance sometimes. Let employees know how much notice they need to give you for planned vacations, events and appointments.
• How often staff can request time off or swap shifts. Think about your circumstances and what you could reasonably accommodate.
• What constitutes emergencies for last-minute call offs. Nursing is one of those professions that is always on call. However, there are situations, like personal illness or injury, or the illness, injury or death of a loved one that warrant time off. Absences to attend a party, concert or some other event aren’t legitimate emergencies. Make it clear what you consider an actual emergency.
What to say when you can’t say “Yes”
Unfortunately, no matter how much you want to accommodate all your nurses’ time-off needs, sometimes you just won’t be able to do so. Follow these tips to take the sting out of your “No.”
• Be direct, honest – and respectful. How you say “No” is critically important, so be direct when you deny the request, but do it without being curt, rude or hostile. For example, “I reviewed the schedule, and I can’t give you tomorrow off.”
• Offer a quick reason, but don’t blame anyone. Explaining the situation often makes your decision easier to stomach. For example, “The floor is full, and without you, we will be short staffed.” Avoid the urge to point fingers at another nurse for this or that, as that just breeds resentment.
• Let them respond. Give them a chance to express their disappointment, but don’t let it turn into an argument. If the discussion becomes heated, you can say, “Let’s take a break and discuss the policies regarding time-off requests tomorrow.”
• Empathize with them. Having a request turned down feels awful, especially when you are a hard worker. Acknowledge that and explain you will do everything in your power to ensure you can meet their next request.
• Show your gratitude. If they accept your denial graciously, let them know how much you appreciate it. Even if they show some frustration, tell them you appreciate the hard work they do every day.
Turn your “No” into a “Yes” with help from ABILITY
Outdated scheduling processes could be making it impossible for you to grant more time-off requests, especially those urgent last-minute ones.
With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you gain complete control over nurse scheduling and can more easily manage changes.
• See at a glance who is available to cover a shift – keeping overtime, seniority, last called off or credential expirations in mind.
• Empower staff to easily make PTO requests, volunteer for open shifts or swap shifts as needed.
• Fill open shifts caused by sick calls and no-shows in minutes – without making one call.
You won’t be able to satisfy every request, but you can make your scheduling process more efficient so you can say “Yes” more often. Learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler.
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