Blog | HR |
10 Min Read
October 20, 2023

A Complete Guide to Caregiver Scheduling for Professionals

by Morris Isaacson

There are many moving parts in any healthcare setting, but nothing is more integral than matching staffing levels to patients’ needs. 


With staffing shortages, vacations and work-life balance considerations, efficient staff scheduling is more complex than ever. To master the complexities of caregiver scheduling, you need to consider the best practices, problems you may encounter and what technology can support you.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about caregiver scheduling: best practices, common pitfalls, technology to enable efficiency and how to balance all this to improve outcomes.

Let’s start with why efficient caregiver scheduling should be at the top of the list. 

The importance of efficient caregiver scheduling

Effective scheduling management can help you to ensure patients are provided for, employees are satisfied and target business outcomes are achieved. 

Scheduling is important in any business deploying workers. But it’s particularly key in the medical industry because:

Your workforce is often deployed in different locations, increasing the need for a cohesive and centralized scheduling practice.

Demand for healthcare services is growing; at the same time, firms face staffing shortages.

Caregiving is labor-intensive and requires highly skilled employees — placing extra pressure on the need for efficient resource allocation.

Improving scheduling efficiency and accuracy can also produce valuable benefits for your business, your employees and your patients. Some of the most important benefits of proper caregiver scheduling are outlined below.

Continuity of care

In any healthcare or assisted living setting, patients should always come first. 


Continuity of care ensures that patients and clients are kept safe and well cared for. It also helps safeguard your business against complaints, negative reviews and even lawsuits. 


Effective caregiver scheduling ensures that your patients receive care when they need it, whether that’s round-the-clock or on an as-needed basis. 


It can also help match patients to their preferred caregivers whenever possible. Familiarity and comfort are paramount for many patients and caregivers also often prefer to work with the same clients repeatedly, wherever possible. 


Any caregiver scheduling practice should include protocols for how to handle call-outs. When a caregiver calls in sick at the last minute, teams should have a simple way to notify other caregivers of the available shift — ideally right away, with minimal manual steps required. 


Your workforce scheduling solution should enable teams to quickly and easily notify qualified caregivers of open shifts due to staff call-outs. Look for software with comprehensive worker scheduling features tailor-made for hospitals, urgent care providers, rehab facilities and long-term care providers.

Caregiver satisfaction and workload management

Happy workers provide better care, work more efficiently and improve both business and patient care outcomes.


Unfortunately, the healthcare industry tends to have low levels of career satisfaction. A 2023 Qualtrics report found that healthcare ranked lowest of 27 industries for employee satisfaction. 


Effective scheduling practices can help improve employee satisfaction levels and allow caregivers to focus solely on their patients without worrying about logistics, consistent income, or scheduling concerns. 


Keeping workers happy is vital — particularly with today’s healthcare staffing shortages. Qualified caregivers are in high demand, so administrative staff must do whatever they can to improve job satisfaction for healthcare workers. Proactive scheduling practices can help boost caregiver retention and job satisfaction levels.


Scheduling practices also keep caregiver workloads consistent and manageable. Utilizing technology for caregiver scheduling can help to keep an organized schedule and match patient needs to caretaker availability. 


Finally, your organization’s scheduling practices should give caregivers autonomy and flexibility. For instance, nurses and care providers should be able to quickly request shift swaps with coworkers.

Payroll management and business outcomes

Proper caregiver scheduling practices can also improve business outcomes, profitability and expense forecasting. It can help firms avoid assigning unnecessary overtime hours, benefiting both bottom-line profitability and work/life balance for caregivers.


Nationwide, the median pay for a skilled nurse (LPN) is $27 per hour. Plus, overtime pay requirements in many states dictate that any work exceeding 40 hours per week must be paid at 1.5 times the standard rate. In an era of squeezed margins and high turnover, many firms simply cannot afford to have higher payroll costs than are absolutely necessary.

With Empeon’s human capital management platform, employers can get automatic alerts when caregivers approach overtime thresholds. It also offers automated solutions to help ensure optimum nurse/caregiver staffing levels.


Another huge benefit of efficient scheduling practices is more effective cost control. If you can match scheduling efforts with monthly or quarterly expense forecasting efforts, you can get a much better idea of expenses well ahead of time. This allows for more proactive financial management, which can benefit all stakeholders.

Caregiver scheduling best practices

To keep your operation running smoothly and your employees happy, implement these caregiver scheduling best practices in your workplace. 

Utilize caregiver scheduling software

Scheduling software can dramatically simplify your assignment workflow, help reduce errors and free up valuable resources and time. While a general scheduling solution could work, software solutions tailored specifically for caregiver scheduling are most effective.


Scheduling care providers presents unique challenges. There are often multiple locations in play and caregivers may be assigned to a specific patient or location — or both. Different rates of pay may apply to different locations or care levels. Additionally, chedulers must often adapt to federal and state-level regulations, union requirements and other administrative barriers. 


For these reasons and more, it’s important to use software that’s specifically designed for caregiver scheduling. 


This is the reason why Empeon has developed its all-in-one human capital management software suite, covering everything from payroll management to HR tasks to scheduling. Having full control over human capital empowers firms to support caregivers, improve efficiency in operations and ultimately achieve better outcomes across patient, workforce and business goals.


With tailor-made tools specifically for healthcare providers, including home health agencies and long-term care facilities, the unique scheduling, compliance and expense-forecasting challenges faced by the healthcare industry can be overcome.

Ensure compliance with federal, state, and local regulations

Your scheduling practices must comply with all relevant regulations and rules, including but not limited to:

Any relevant minimum staffing standards for your facility type.

General labor laws on a state, federal and local level (i.e., minimum wage, mandated break periods, etc.).

Healthcare-specific regulations on a state and federal level (i.e., the required time between shifts, appropriate licensing for facilities and care providers, etc.).

Any relevant rules or negotiated terms from employee trade unions.

These rules vary significantly from state to state and also differ depending on the care provided. It’s important to stay compliant and current with these requirements, as violating firms could face significant fines and other penalties. 

Many of these regulations are designed to improve workplace safety and patient outcomes. For example, Washington State mandates that certain healthcare workers who work more than 12 consecutive hours must be given the option to have at least eight consecutive hours of time off. These rules make sure that care providers get enough rest to continue providing a high level of care for patients.

Implement efficient notifications

Keeping workers proactively informed of their schedules — and any last-minute changes — is key for productive scheduling workflows. Ideally, you want to have one centralized system that’s continuously updated and that automatically sends out notifications of schedule changes, call-outs (i.e., available shifts to grab last-minute) and everything else caretakers need to know. 


Caregivers should be able to access their digital schedule remotely and the schedule should be kept up-to-date. 


Ideally, care providers should be able to interact with your scheduling system directly. For instance, they should be able to request time off or request a shift swap with a coworker directly from your scheduling platform. This reduces the amount of back-and-forth communication, saving your HR and scheduling teams valuable time. 


It’s wise to do what you can to centralize scheduling, time and attendance recording and communication between employees and HR. This allows all of your data to sync up in a single platform or centralized database, which helps improve visibility for all stakeholders, cuts down on unnecessary back-and-forth and reduces the chances of human error causing scheduling mix-ups. 

Enable caregiver flexibility — with the proper oversight

Your scheduling solution should provide caregivers with a reasonable level of flexibility and autonomy. Your systems should include easy ways for caregivers to call in sick, request vacation time, swap shifts with coworkers and plan out their workloads well beforehand. 


Younger workers, in particular, are increasingly expecting ways to directly make changes to their schedules and other details without having to call in. It’s vital to enable this level of direct autonomy and flexibility to help retain staff and adapt to the changing workforce.


Of course, from a management perspective, you need to have the appropriate oversight and safeguards in place to ensure appropriate behavior and prevent abuse. For instance, most workplaces will likely want to require manager approval for shift swaps and other schedule changes. 


Ideally, you want technology that enables seamless scheduling management and allows for direct input and requests from your workforce. You also want the ability to approve or deny requests, manually alter schedules and more. You want to empower your employees while also ensuring appropriate managerial oversight.

Set cost controls

Payroll is a primary cost driver for most healthcare businesses. Your scheduling practices’ efficiency can make or break your payroll cost management efforts. 


It’s best to have financial budgeting workflows built into your scheduling solution wherever possible. The number of hours scheduled will coincide very closely with the number of billable hours in a given pay period, so you can get a very good idea of what payroll numbers will look like each pay cycle. 


Use a tool that syncs payroll with scheduling practices if you can. You can also benefit from using a tool with advanced payroll features, like the flexibility to set variable shift pay rates, provide bonus pay for hard-to-fill shifts and alerts when employees are approaching overtime thresholds. 


Choose a payroll management software that enables your team to proactively manage schedules, set custom pay rates, customize union contract specifics and more — ideally all from a single platform. This will cut down on manual work, reduce errors and give you better clarity into business outcomes and payroll targets.


Software tools can help you map costs ahead of time while also enabling cost-cutting measures. For instance, your payroll and scheduling tool should be able to alert you whenever a team member approaches the overtime threshold for the pay period, which helps you avoid unnecessary overtime.

Enable communication and collaboration

Scheduling doesn’t always need to be strictly a top-down workflow. While your HR or scheduling staff should certainly be involved, an ideal scheduling workflow will include input, communication and collaboration from all involved parties. 


For instance, employees should be able to easily request time off, submit time cards and request shift swaps without calling a scheduler. If you use a software solution, look for digital time cards on mobile devices and other user-friendly features. 


While communication and collaboration are essential for efficient scheduling, be mindful of HIPAA regulations. Scheduling practices should include only the information that is strictly necessary to assign shifts and should not include sensitive patient information. 

Add a human touch

Scheduling doesn’t always need to be strictly a top-down workflow. While your HR or scheduling staff should certainly be involved, an ideal scheduling workflow will include input, communication and collaboration from all involved parties. 


For instance, employees should be able to easily request time off, submit time cards and request shift swaps without calling a scheduler. If you use a software solution, look for digital time cards on mobile devices and other user-friendly features. 


While communication and collaboration are essential for efficient scheduling, be mindful of HIPAA regulations. Scheduling practices should include only the information that is strictly necessary to assign shifts and should not include sensitive patient information. 


We all like efficiency, professionalism and consistency. But it also pays to add a human touch to your scheduling efforts.


Maybe you add all your caregivers’ birthdays to your calendar so you know beforehand to plan days off around their birthdays. Or maybe you know one of your employees is having a hard time personally, so add a note to check in with them more frequently about their workload needs and desires. 


Adding a human touch to your scheduling efforts can help improve employee satisfaction, create a culture of collaboration and help prevent burnout among your most important resource: your employees.

Automate and modernize where possible

If you’re still relying on manual processes to schedule employees, manage timesheets and submit payroll, it may be time to modernize your systems and harness the power of automation


Automation can help reduce manual error and free up valuable time and resources spent on higher-value activities. For instance, by utilizing a single technology solution that covers both scheduling and digital timecards, you can make sure scheduled time matches up with worked hours to avoid payroll headaches. 


AI-driven technology can take things even further, opening up useful insights into how your business operates, speeding up onboarding and augmenting scheduler and HR professionals’ workflows for greater efficiency. 

Enable timely paid time off (PTO) approvals

At most workplaces, PTO requests need to be manually approved by supervisors. However, employees appreciate timely responses to these requests. Ideally, caregivers should be able to submit PTO requests directly through their employee portal.


Wherever possible, caretakers should have access to an employee portal they can access from their device(s). This portal should sync up seamlessly with the central workforce schedule and should allow efficient collaboration and communication between all involved parties.

Caregiver scheduling software for modern healthcare excellence

The caregiver scheduling tips above provide a framework for a successful scheduling practice. 


We developed Empeon’s human capital management platform based on these principles, with a view to reducing or eliminating scheduling and human resource challenges in the healthcare industry through cutting-edge technology. 


The Empeon Scheduling module makes it easy to schedule shifts, track hours worked, set customized pay rates, organize shifts by location and much more. As part of our feature-rich Time and Attendance module, the newly launched Empeon Scheduling products expand on the functionality of our established workforce management solutions.

  • Human Resources

    Automate employee onboarding and manage records and requests

  • Talent Management

    Recruit and onboard the right talent for your team

  • Time & Attendance

    Know who worked where, when, how, and with whom

  • Benefits Administration

    Build and deliver enticing benefits and promotions

  • Payroll & Compliance

    Calculate and compensate everyone, absolutely anyhow

  • Reporting & BI

    Grow with reports, analytics, and business intelligence

Empeon offers custom solutions for HR management, talent acquisition, time and attendance tracking, benefits administration, payroll, compliance and even business intelligence — all in one user-friendly platform. Many of our tools are customized specifically for hospitals, urgent care facilities, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation centers. 


Using this software allows you to have a single source of truth for your entire operation. Everything syncs seamlessly: Schedulers can assign shifts, caregivers can submit their hours and request changes straight from their mobile devices and business managers can oversee operations from a birds-eye view, all-in-one powerful platform. 


We also believe in the human touch, which shines from our talented team of US-based engineers and HR client specialists. Our experts learn your business processes so we can help simplify and automate them. If you ever need support, our dedicated, local support agents are available to empower your growth. 

Improve patient, caregiver and business outcomes with efficient caregiver scheduling

Improving your caregiver scheduling process can benefit every stakeholder. Patients will receive consistent, skilled care. Caregiving professionals will have clarity and consistency in their workload and feel more confident in their careers. Financial stakeholders and HR teams can benefit from reduced costs, clearer budgetary estimates and reduced overtime expenditures. 


If you would like to better understand how to improve your caregiver scheduling workflow for greater efficiency, happier patients and employees and reduced costs, book a demo today to see how Empeon can truly change your day-to-day operations for the better. 

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