Review by Dr. Corinne Horan (Jefferson) & Dr. Devin T. Burrup (Wright State University)
Shift Admin is a web-based scheduling program that auto-generates schedules based on specific criteria defined by the Administrative User. The program can support the scheduling needs of multiple users at a single hospital or multiple facilities, and allows for integration into one schedule or generation of separate schedules. Cost for scheduling is based on the average number of residents on your monthly schedule, with the cost coming to $5/month/resident. Flat rates can also be negotiated directly. Customized rules have associated “point-values” assigned to them (defined by the Administrative User) which result in “penalties” if that rule is broken when a schedule is auto-generated. After specific requests have been entered (i.e. vacation, day off requests, etc), the auto-generator analyzes hundreds of millions of schedules to produce one with the least amount of penalty points possible. The Administrative User can then analyze the data to determine if the penalties are acceptable. Once a schedule is generated using the auto schedule generation feature, it can be edited/tweaked as needed. If edits are required, a new schedule can be generated using the Administrative Users edits as a new starting point, thus reducing overall penalties and improving the overall schedule. The schedule can then be exported to excel or PDF for email distribution. Users can also log-in to their online account to see the schedule, offer trades, or sync to external calendar software (i.e. iCal, Outlook or Google calendar) for offline use.
For the scheduler
Shift Admin requires a lot of data input prior to actually being able to create a schedule. Users can be input through the use of a CSV template available for download on the Shift Admin site. Schedulers then need to create “Contracts” to assign to each of these users, which is likely to be the most time-consuming aspect of setup. Contracts are designed in order to tell the schedule generator what the rules are for any specific resident. Each of our PGY classes has a separate contract, and this is where you input duty hour restrictions, how many nights each resident should work, how many days off they should have per week, and how many scheduling requests they are allowed to make. The contracts are not a particularly intuitive part of the program, as each “rule” created in the contract is additionally assigned a specific weight, which tells the schedule generator which rules are more important to abide by (ie: duty hour violations are more important than having a weekend off).
Once users have their contracts assigned, you can create schedule periods for each block schedule. Users in the department that month can be assigned, and specific schedule requests that must be honored (for example, clinic days for off-service residents and which residents cannot work nights the last night of the block) can be input by the scheduler on this page. This has also proven to be a time-consuming process due to the high number of off-service rotators that often do not follow our block schedule for their rotation.
Admin entered requests fall below the line, whereas user input requests fall above the line. Requests can be marked as “FIXED,” and can be made only for specific shifts off in addition to full days off.
From there, Shift Admin’s schedule generator goes through millions of iterations of potential schedules until it comes up with one that breaks as few of your contract rules as possible (denoted by the weight). The generator runs for 20 minutes but can be stopped at any time. Manual edits can be made very easily once the schedule is generated, and when you are happy you simply publish the schedule for all users to view.
Logged in users see their schedule highlighted
The entire process when starting fresh with Shift Admin can be arduous. They do, however, offer very responsive and helpful tech support. When initially learning the system, we set up online meetings with the tech specialists, who were happy to teach us the system (including going through an entire contract with us and teaching us the best way to assign weights). Their support has certainly made the program more “user friendly,” especially for those of us that are not as tech savvy. At any time, if you are having an issue, Shift Admin will typically respond to an email within 5 minutes or will answer the phone immediately to help you troubleshoot.
While the customization process can be very time consuming and may require a lot of changes when creating the first schedule, Shift Admin itself can be customized to work for very complicated schedules. At both Jefferson (which has 39 residents staffing 4 different EDs with 120 off-service rotators to incorporate annually) and Wright State (which has 46 residents staffing 6 different EDs), Shift Admin has made a huge difference in terms of the ease of scheduling. Staffing for multiple sites and specific requests off for conference and morale days can be incorporated into a single block schedule using Shift Admin.
The true customization comes mainly from building the contracts. By changing the penalty weights in the contracts for different rules, you can tell the system what is most important for your residents’ schedule. Do you think it’s absolutely necessary that all residents have at least one weekend off every block? You can weigh that particular rule more heavily than others, and the generator will break that rule less often. However, that also means that the generator may need to break another, less heavily weighted rule in order to build a functional schedule. These contracts can additionally be customized for each site your residents staff, and changed on a block-by-block basis to ensure that residents on a particular rotation are scheduled appropriately.
Additionally, each user profile can be customized for shift preference (i.e. if a resident requests to work all night shifts, the maximum number of night shifts can be changed for an individual user without affecting the base contract and other users assigned to it). This feature can be changed on each schedule and changing this preference in one schedule period does not automatically change it for all remainder schedule periods.
The mobile site allows users to view only their schedule or the group schedule as well as make offers for shift trades. From the mobile site as well as the full site, users can subscribe to their schedule via iCal or Google calendar. Users can opt to view the full site if desired, which works well on an iPhone. For those who prefer paper, a PDF can be printed directly from the site.
User shift trade interface
- Generator that analyzes millions of schedule iterations
- Exceptional tech support
- Easy-to-read schedule
- Resident driven requests and shift trades
- Time consuming set up
- Not free
Shift Admin is an online schedule management system that makes scheduling quick and effective. The auto-generator uses a complex algorithm to analyze hundreds of millions of schedules, resulting in a schedule that best meets predefined criteria. The interface is intuitive and easy to use. Both users and admin can input specific requests. Although it takes a significant amount of time to set-up, the support staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. Despite it being more expensive than it’s scheduling competitors, I feel it has tremendous benefits and is worth the cost. Shift Admin will ultimately decrease the amount of time required to create schedules. After all, nothing is more valuable during residency, than our time.