Amy's blog about training

Why Be a Physician On-Call Scheduler?

Posted by Amy Engebretson on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 @ 11:00 AM

What some see as "aggravation", others see as an intriguing mixture of art and science; a challenge well worthwhile.

PhysicianOnCallParkingI am proud to work for a company that is in the business of making a difference! I know what I do ultimately results in a dynamic On-Call schedule that impacts the quality of life of on-call Physicians and their families. We make a difference in their lives, so they can make a difference in yours!

Even if I don't directly create the on-call schedule, I teach others how to do so. I have a passion for teaching and empowering others. I love hearing the joy in the "I get it" tone of voice. And the variety! No two Groups are ever the same, even if they appear to be. Each Group is a unique collection of real people, with real life-balance needs that get expressed through the on-call schedule. Crossword puzzles never did it for me, but solving on call rule issues and figuring out how to convert a paper process into something that will work with on-line software is fun.

As for the schedulers I train? Thank goodness there is a kaleidoscope of personalities out there! At one end, congenial people-loving extroverts who seem to intuitively know exactly the right thing to say to get and keep a meaningful conversation going. At the other, those types who shine in a quiet, introspective setting with more "bookish" joys and internal triumphs. It seems to me that a successful on-call scheduler needs to be a bit of both.

A great on-call scheduler needs enough moxy to say "no" when needed, enough detective instinct to love solving the problem, and enough of an introvert to strongly focus, getting into the "flow" of the project itself.

The result is much more than spread, tallies and a calendar in a SmartPhone! It is a team relationship, committed to generating the best interactive schedule possible.

This blog post "This Christmas story may mend a few hearts" jolted my memory about the impact Physicians have every day on young people and lives. What a wonderful combination of circumstances brought that particular doctor and that individual patient together.  Starting with an on-call schedule, then an emergency situation with all the right staff at the right time and place, and ending with a direct, challenging, frustrated declaration that resulted in a new future!

That Physician's on-call scheduler was indirectly a part of those events. Although barely mentioned in the blog post, it all started with the on call schedule. I wonder if the scheduler ever realized the ultimate impact of that effort. During my personal experience with an on-call situation, I  marveled at the "magical" coordination of hospital staff, while well aware of such a schedule. 

What do I hear from on-call schedulers as they work on hammering out the schedule? Schedulers have an enormous responsibility and a difficult “balancing act” job. Things get confused, providers don’t give definitive answers on time, and physician time is scarce. Creating a realistic and dynamic schedule is a skilled art. Why do they stay with it?

  • Pride in a job well done.
  • Creative Problem Solving with a purpose.
  • The importance of making a difference.
  • Being an integral team member, vital to the success of the group
  • Valued for being independently driven, resourceful and responsible
  • Being able to use their natural interest in details and process

These professionals care so much about what they do; I can feel it right through the telephone line. I love working with these people.

Key takeaway: Scheduling is a difficult job. Everyone wants some of the Physician’s time, and it is the scheduler who must not only keep track of all of the requests but also play the “bad guy” when a request must be declined. Empower, train and support the right person for this position and you will not only have an efficient on-call schedule, you will have a growing professional.

Topics: on call scheduler, on call scheduler traits, teaching software