Working Smarter: The Logistics of Scheduling SPs

By: Beth Hallmark and Cedar Wang

As we continue our conversation about standardized patients (SPs), there are many logistical details to consider. This blog shares suggestions for scheduling, including the pros and cons of two computerized scheduling programs, and describes how personnel at two centers oversee this complicated process. Scheduling SPs can be very time consuming. Remember to work smarter, not harder!

healthy-schedule-nurseScheduling SPs, and finding the right SPs to meet the needs of a particular scenario, requires careful planning or the right application. Some institutions have internal software that can assist with the scheduling, while smaller centers may utilize various programs that are free of charge. There are downsides to both types of systems. Here are brief descriptions of how we handle the problem.

Cedar: Our hospital-based simulation center uses a web-based employee scheduling service called When To Work. This allows us to post the role(s) we need to fill, along with any particular SP requirements like gender, approximate age, or other defining characteristic that the SP may need to assume.

This system gives our SPs autonomy to self-schedule, with manager approval, and eases the burden on our busy simulation staff. If an SP is available for a posted shift, he/she selects it on the website. The request to pick up the shift is approved by our manager of simulation education who is responsible for coaching and preparing the SP for the scenario. We are also able to add in time for rehearsals and other special events as needed.

Because the application is web-based, other educators are able to see who will be filling the role. If an SP cancels, the shift is posted to the “tradeboard” on the scheduling website and other SPs receive notification that a shift is available. This scheduling tool has been invaluable to streamline communication in our simulation center between our core staff and our SPs.

Beth: Using a free scheduling system such as Sign-Up Genius has obvious benefits, but significant time is spent uploading the time slots and sessions needed each semester. At our center faculty fill out a Qualtrics survey that describes the type of SP needed for a scenario, with particulars such as gender, age, and race. In addition, the survey asks the faculty member to provide a script along with time slots required. Then a student worker creates the “Sign-up Genius” and sends to the faculty member for approval. Once it is approved the student worker contacts the actors that are in our database who meet the specific needs. One drawback is that when an SP cancels, the SP pool is not notified. The creator of the signup is contacted and can then send out a call for addition assistance.

No matter what type of system you select, be sure to use one. Paper signups or communicating simply by email is time consuming and can lead to miscommunication. Another important consideration is having someone assigned to oversee this portion of the work. Often faculty get caught up in the details of scheduling and are unable to oversee the curriculum and content. This work can be done by student workers or graduate assistants, giving faculty the time to concentrate on student learning.

In summary, adopting a scheduling system to manage your SP scheduling needs will enhance efficiency and streamline the process of meeting the training needs of your consumers.

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