What Does a Nursing Scheduler Do?

When thinking about critical roles at a long-term care facility, your first thoughts are likely of the patient care team. While patient care is of the utmost importance and crucial to the facility, the role of a nursing scheduler cannot be overlooked. Without the hard work and dedication of this role, the nursing staff would not be around to help the patients. 

What is the Role of a Nursing Scheduler? 

A scheduler is an essential worker in post-acute care. Though often overlooked, the role of the scheduler is critical to the proper functioning of a long-term care facility.  

Schedulers are responsible for building and filling a shift schedule. This may sound simple on the surface, but in reality, the role of a professional nursing scheduler is multi-faceted, challenging, and different every day. For those who enjoy problem-solving at work, becoming a scheduler is something to consider pursuing. 

On a daily basis, a scheduler will complete the following tasks: 

  • Input open shifts into a scheduling system 
  • Review, approve, and book shifts accepted by nurses and nursing assistants 
  • Manage full-time, per diem, and (in some cases) travel staff schedule requests 
  • Communicate with staff and management 
  • Respond to staff crises  
  • Fill last minute shift requests, shift cancelations, and no-shows 
  • Report to the DON and/or facility admin regarding staffing and scheduling costs 

Why is the Role of a Nursing Scheduler So Important? 

The reimbursement model for post-acute care requires an adequately staffed building. If a long-term care facility doesn’t have the right mix of care providers on shift at a given time, the financial and legal implications for the facility are significant. That is why it is so important for long-term care facilities to have schedulers; they need someone who is entirely responsible for managing the specifics of a shift schedule. This includes making sure the correct provider types are working and being nimble when it comes to responding to inevitable shift cancelations or adjustments. 

Of course, being a scheduler in long-term care can be extremely stressful, especially when faced with the reality of understaffing in nursing. The role has a significantly higher turnover rate than most other positions in post-acute care because of both the tactical and interpersonal demands of the job. Schedulers are regularly on call to handle last-minute schedule changes (i.e., staff calling out sick or not showing up to work) and are also often on the receiving end of staff complaints, especially when schedule changes need to be made to accommodate for staff sicknesses or no-shows.  

On the flip side, schedulers enjoy the benefits of a less physically demanding job that has a direct, positive impact on patient care and outcomes. Schedulers are responsible for making sure that the people working on every shift have the support that they need and for creating a dynamic working environment. They are also constantly involved in collaborative problem solving. 

The scheduler job is not for everyone, but for those who like the challenges and excitement that an ever-changing puzzle like shift scheduling at a long-term care facility presents, it can be a very rewarding experience. 

How Can I Become a Nursing Scheduler? 

Some schedulers in long-term care are high school graduates who may not have any healthcare background. Others are certified nursing assistants who are looking for a role in a long-term care facility that isn’t direct patient care. Additionally, Directors and Assistant Directors of Nursing often take on the scheduler role on top of their other responsibilities. Because schedulers are in such high demand, there are few prerequisites to doing the job. It is a very accessible role for anyone with long-term care experience or looking to branch into long-term care. 

However, the best way to be set up for success if you are interested in pursuing a role as a nursing scheduler is to enroll in a Professional Scheduler Certificate program. Receiving a certificate in long-term care scheduling will set you apart from the competition, making you an attractive candidate to facilities looking to fill this critical role. It will also arm you with the tools you need to be highly competent and less stressed in the job! 

IntelyCare’s premier educational platform, IntelyEdu, designed specifically for those working in post-acute care, offers a Professional Scheduler Certificate that is affordable and accessible on-demand. 

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