New international research collaboration examining flexible work schedules in Healthcare starting in September 2019

Philip Tucker and colleagues in Sweden will be studying how allowing nurses influence over their work hours could help improve recruitment and retention. There are many different ways in which individual nurses can be allowed to shape their own work hours. Through a series of interviews and surveys, this examines which factors make nurses’ individual work schedules both attractive and sustainable.

Healthcare today faces major challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. Providing attractive and sustainable working hours is an important tool in meeting this challenge. Giving shiftworking nurses influence over their working hours (Individual Schedule Planning – ISP) is an important means of enhancing their well-being. This project examines how to support nurses and managers in achieving sustainable working hours though ISP.

ISP assumes that nurses’ work hours are planned to meet both individual requests for working hours and the employers’ needs, in terms of skills and staffing. However, ISP is a heterogeneous concept, and there is a wide variety of both the conditions under which it takes place (eg, staffing levels, skill requirements) and how the scheduling process looks like. ISP can vary, for example, in how long the scheduling period is, whether daily work hours are specified or whether the employee simply specifies which days they want to be available. There are also different ways to handle vetoing, alignment with colleagues and overtime work. It is unclear how differences in conditions and in the application of ISP affect the long-term sustainability of working schedules, with respect to effects on nurses’ health, patient safety, effective care and staff turnover.

The project addresses the following questions:

  1. What is the experience of nurses and managers in trying to create rosters with ISP that meet patient care requirements while supporting recovery and the balance between work and leisure?
  2. What different forms of ISP exist in Swedish healthcare?
  3. How do the different forms of ISP affect recovery, health balance between work and leisure as well as well-being with working hours?

While the current project focuses on nurses in Sweden, the results will address the challenges around nurse recruitment and retention that are faced by healthcare organisations in many countries, including the UK.