Physician On-Call Scheduling and On-Call Management Blog
by Justin Wampach

Went to Medical School to Create On-Call Schedules, Eh?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Apr 07, 2017 @ 02:10 PM

ID-10084441.jpgI am not a physician, but when I think about all the reasons that someone may decide to become a physician, you think of the basics, like, I wanted to help people, and make a difference in their lives; I was inspired by the challenge of diagnosing and fighting disease; I came from a medical family and had seen firsthand how satisfied my parents were with their careers.  All that makes perfect sense.  What I have never heard is that I became a physician so that I could practice less medicine, see fewer patients and do more administrative work.  According to many studies, the increasing amount of administrative work has become one of the top surveyed reasons that physicians are dissatisfied with their job.  I have spoken with thousands of physicians in my time at Call Scheduler, I have never had one doctor tell me that he/she went to medical school so that they could learn how to effectively schedule their peers.  In fact, it’s often referred to as one of the things they dread the most.

This post is about one way that certain physicians can offload one of the nastiest administrative tasks, creating the on-call schedule for them and their partners.  When we started Call Scheduler many years ago, Patrick Zook, M.D. and myself set forth on a journey to assist in solving some of the complex administrative tasks in medicine, in fact that was our first tag line.  Our idea, in which many other companies have followed, was to create software that could assist a physician in creating, maintaining and communicating the on-call schedule for the group.  What we failed to realize is that although software is a great tool, it is not the true solution to the problem.  

Let me illustrate with an example.  I love dogs.  I hate cleaning up dog poop.  I hate it because it makes me gag and sometimes even throw-up.  Several years ago, I found a “tool” at the big-box pet store in my community that is designed to help you clean up dog poop.   You may have seen one of the devices that they sell today to help you so that you don’t have to touch the poop, instead they offer a small rake and a dust-pan like thing to collect it, and then you throw it away.   When I first saw this I was really excited.  I thought, this is a great idea.  I purchased one right away.  It was much better than my current method.  But it didn’t take long before I realized that I was still picking up dog poop.  Regardless of how cool my new tool was, I was still doing the crappy job.  Then I learned about a young guy in my community that had started a business that cleaned up the dog poop in people’s yards for a small weekly fee.  I think it was $10 per week, per dog.   I really thought the idea was brilliant, mainly because it solved my problem of having to clean up the waste.  I quickly realized that the first tool I purchased, although cool in concept, still required that I do the work.  Contracting with a guy to do the work for a small monthly fee made all the difference in the world.  My problem was solved.  Now no matter how many dogs I choose to have, I can have my preverbal cake and eat it too.

The concept is the same for physician scheduling.  If you are a physician spending time at night or on the weekends to create, manage and communicate the on-call schedule for you and your partners you have a task that you hate to do.  Buying software, like Call Scheduler can help you make that crappy job better, but you still must do the work.  But outsourcing that work, or contracting with a qualified professional to do the work allows you to manage the process, but not have to get your hands dirty.  That truly solves the problem once and for all. 

If you are a physician who has the pleasure of creating the on-call schedule for your partners you may want to strongly consider skipping the software and going right to outsourcing the work to someone who has decided to make that their business. 

Key Takeaway:  sometimes you need more than a pooper scooper to solve your problem.  Sometimes you need someone else to just clean up your poop so you don’t have to.

For more reading about this topic check out my post about "How to Give Away A Skunk".

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at