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Common Time-off Protocols to Implement in Your Practice

Posted by Shift Admin on September 5, 2017 at 6:10 AM

When it comes to time off, hospital administrations and clinics often have protocols or “rules” that doctors and nurses must follow. Not only does this keep things fair on the schedule, but it also guarantees that the administrator will generate a fully-optimized, fully-staffed schedule - every time.

There are many different strategies for implementing and executing time-off policies. Here are a few common rules in the healthcare industry.


Holidays present a unique problem to physician schedulers, as patient volume often fluctuates during these times throughout the year. There are a number of rules you can implement to guarantee your facility is adequately staffed to meet your needs. The first is to limit the number of people who can request off for a certain holiday. In this instance, requests are first come, first served.

It’s common for practices to establish a holiday rotation up to a year or more in advance. For example, providers are required to work one or two major holidays in a year with the expectation that they will be off the following year. In this case, it’s best practice to blackout major holidays so that no one may request off. The scheduler can then assign shifts to providers based on the original holiday schedule.

Are you new to scheduling? Check out our in-depth guide Where to Start as a New Physician Scheduler. 

Schedule Requests

Establishing protocols and limits around time off requests is another way to maintain balance and fairness in each schedule. Start by requiring providers to assign high, medium, or low priority to each request they submit. The assigned priorities enable the generator to align the schedule to provider preferences.

Furthermore, Shift Admin’s easy-to-use interface allows schedulers to implement request limits to ensure each shift is fully-staffed. Admins set the maximum number of high, medium, and low requests available per scheduling period. Other functionality includes the ability to limit weekend requests, the number of consecutive days in a request, and even the number of days requested within an entire year.


Many hospital administrations create a pattern schedule with built-in time off. Doing so reduces the number of time-off requests and allows physicians and staff to plan personal and vacation time. By batching work hours together, doctors and nurses have full visibility into upcoming days off. An example of this is hospitals where many providers work seven days on, seven days off. Shift Admin’s web-based solution gives schedulers the ability to build and customize patterns that fit their organization.

Implementing time-off protocols works best when groups consistently execute and communicate the policy to all employees. Once created, any of the above protocols can be weighted to override a rule with lower priority when generating the schedule. With time-off rules written into the automatic schedule generator, the burden of maintaining fairness is no longer in the hands of the scheduler.

Want to see how implementing custom time-off protocols can empower you to create a fully-staffed, fully-optimized schedule in minutes? Request a demo!

Topics: Physician Scheduling

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