What Does a Nurse Scheduler Do?

Written by Maggie Kilgallon Content Marketing Manager, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse scheduler typing on a keyboard and holding a phone under her chin.

When thinking about critical roles at a hospital, long-term care facility, group home, or psychiatric 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 nurse 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 a Nurse Scheduler?

A nursing scheduler is an essential worker in healthcare. 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 scheduling nurse 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?

Schedulers — also called nursing coordinators — ensure that there are enough nursing professionals on site to care for the number of patients at a hospital or facility. In addition to sheer safety concerns, there are laws that require proper staffing in medical care.

For example, 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 healthcare 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.

Pros and Cons of Being a Nurse Scheduler

Of course, being a scheduler in a hospital or in long-term care can be extremely stressful, especially when faced with the reality of understaffing in nursing and because of both the tactical and interpersonal demands of the job. Directors and assistant directors of nursing often take on the scheduler role on top of their other responsibilities.

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 still 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 busy hospital or facility presents, it can be a very rewarding experience.

How to Become a Nurse Scheduler

Nurse scheduling is an accessible career path for anyone, especially someone looking to branch into post-acute care. Some schedulers in long-term care are high school graduates who may not have any healthcare background. Others are certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who are looking for a role that isn’t direct patient care. While there are few prerequisites for this role, certain facilities prefer to hire registered nurses for it.

As far as job skills, you must have outstanding communication skills, be extremely organized and just as flexible. You also have to be personable, responsible, and also a bit of a peacemaker.

If you are interested in pursuing a role as a nursing scheduler in a nursing home, consider enrolling in a Professional Scheduler Certificate program. Receiving a certificate in scheduling can set you apart from the competition, making you an attractive candidate to employers looking to fill this critical role. It can also arm you with the tools you need to be competent and less stressed in the job.

How Much Does a Scheduling Nurse Make?

The average nurse scheduler salary is around $43,800 per year. Your pay will likely depend on your facility type, experience, and location. For example, a nursing home scheduler salary in Los Angeles won’t be the same as in Cincinnati. And in general, statistics show that nurse salaries tend to be higher in outpatient centers, specialty hospitals, and general medical hospitals than in skilled nursing facilities.

The states and areas that pay well for this type of job include:

Find the Right Schedule for Yourself

A nurse scheduler is responsible for staffing an entire facility, but you just need to figure our your own schedule. Need some help with that? IntelyCare can match you with nursing jobs that work with your needs and interests. Learn more today.