What Is Block Schedule Nursing? Facility Guide and FAQ

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurses and a doctor pose for the camera.

If you’re a facility leader exploring alternative staffing strategies, you may be wondering — what is block schedule nursing? Block scheduling is a popular scheduling method that allows administrators to better gauge their staffing needs while enabling nurses to retain more control over their time.

We’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this scheduling method to help inform your facility’s staffing direction.

What Is Block Scheduling in Nursing?

Block scheduling, also known as block booking, enables nurses to set their schedules in advance across a period of time (typically a month). Rather than receiving a week-by-week assignment of 8, 10, or 12-hour shifts over various weekdays and weekends, nurses can “block” out shifts consecutively or on alternating days, depending on what works best for their needs.

Nursing Block Schedule Examples

To get a better idea of how this works in practice, we can take a look at two different examples of how nurses might utilize block scheduling. As one example, a nurse may want to have four consecutive days off in-between their work weeks. To allow for this, they would block out the following days to work 12-hour shifts each week over a month:

  • Monday — On
  • Tuesday — On
  • Wednesday — On
  • Thursday — Off
  • Friday — Off
  • Saturday — Off
  • Sunday — Off

Alternatively, a nurse might want more rest time in-between their shifts, rather than in-between their work weeks. In this case they might block out their schedule as follows:

  • Monday — Off
  • Tuesday — Off
  • Wednesday — On
  • Thursday — Off
  • Friday — On
  • Saturday — Off
  • Sunday — On

What Is Block Schedule Nursing’s Main Advantage?

Block scheduling can bring many benefits for both staff and facilities. For nurses, this system enables them to get an idea of what their schedules look like further in advance. Additionally, it gives nurses more control over their schedules, which can help prevent burnout since rest days can be carved out based on individual needs.

With more traditional staffing methods, nurses might place requests to have certain days off, only to get assigned last-minute schedules that don’t reflect these requests. This requires them to rearrange shifts with other staff, or call off of shifts that facilities then need to quickly fill. Moreover, ongoing denials of requests can lead to worsened interpersonal relationships between managers and staff.

The flexible and anticipatory design of block scheduling can prevent these types of scheduling hurdles, also leading to other benefits for facilities such as:

  • Less overstaffing or understaffing on individual units
  • Fewer last-minute shift cancellations that need to be filled on a whim
  • Better working relationships between administrators and nurses
  • Increased nurse retention due to satisfactory scheduling
  • Clearer overall staffing needs that can be filled by per-diem staff

What Types of Nurses Can Use Block Scheduling?

When it comes to block scheduling, nursing professionals of all kinds can utilize and reap benefits from this staffing method. It’s most commonly implemented for travel or contract nurses who work under month-to-month contracts for hospitals seeking temporary coverage. However, facilities can implement block scheduling for their permanent staff as well.

How Is Block Schedule Nursing Implemented?

Being able to answer the question, What is block schedule nursing? is just the beginning. You may also be looking for tips on how to implement this system at your facility. At baseline, it’s important to foster nurse input when creating block schedules, since this is a fundamental reason why this system can be beneficial.

Some facilities implement block scheduling while prohibiting certain weekdays or weekends to be called off. If scheduling is too restrictive, this may defeat the underlying purpose of block booking. Follow these steps to ensure your block scheduling practices bridge the needs of your staff and facility:

  • Streamline Your Scheduling Platform — Coordinating schedules between multiple staff members at a time can get confusing if the process isn’t organized efficiently. Rather than using paper or manual scheduling methods, consider upgrading to electronic or automated scheduling platforms that compile blocks into a central calendar.
  • Send Scheduling Requests In Advance — Give staff adequate time and notice to submit their block scheduling requests. This allows nurses to accurately block out a schedule that they can adhere to and allow you to figure out the days of the month that additional staffing coverage is needed.
  • Utilize Supplemental Staffing Strategies to Cover Gaps — If you’re implementing block scheduling for your permanent staff, utilize other sources of staffing coverage to honor your staff’s requests. In addition to hiring new full-time staff, you can also look to increase your facility’s float pool, or working with a staffing partner to reach more per-diem staff who can come in to fill shifts on an as-needed basis.

Find Staffing Solutions That Are Right For You

Now that we’ve answered the question, What is block schedule nursing? you may be seeking other ways to meet your scheduling needs and stabilize your workforce. Reach out to IntelyCare today and discover the innovative staffing solutions we have to offer.