Scheduling Software Can Make EMS More Efficient

Online scheduling programs put accountability on employees



Cassie Palmer | | Friday, July 8, 2011

Communication and accountability are the keys to running an effective operation. You need to set up and push out a balanced schedule. Members need to submit availability, trade shifts and have access to their schedules. Efficient communication and consistent accountability makes everyone's life easier.

As our company grew, we needed a better way to schedule and to ensure that our employees were checking the schedule regularly. We were outgrowing our spreadsheet calendar and needed a better way to manage member requests.

Previously, employees would be responsible for checking the posted schedule or calling in to their supervisor or me. We had even tried recording a message so that our employees could call in and hear their schedule on a daily basis. However, we could only do it on a day-to-day basis, and we couldn’t continue once we began staffing 60 ambulances a day.

Having done scheduling with previous employers, it was easy for me to determine our needs in a new scheduling system. I knew we needed a system that could handle a wide variety of schedules with different combinations of days and shift times. We needed a system that would allow employees to submit time-off requests and be notified immediately on approval.

I needed a user-friendly system for all our employees—a program that would allow frequent changes and display those changes immediately. We needed a system to make two-way communication easier and more accessible.

Evaluating the Options
We decided not to set a timetable for finding a new system so we could take our time and explore a number of different possibilities. We looked for more than a year before considering any specific products. It was another year before we actually purchased anything. The only expectation I had was to get a system that would help bring our company into the 21st century.

We considered developing an in-house system, but most of the vendors we spoke with had no idea what EMS was or even where to start—not to mention the outrageous amount of money we were quoted for such a project. We also looked at generic scheduling software, both desktop and online, and found that most programs were geared toward routine, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules.

After looking into various scheduling systems and speaking with countless people, we found two systems that fit our needs. Price was the biggest difference, so we went with EMS Manager.

It took only six weeks to completely implement EMS Manager. The transition process began with attaching a memo to each employee's paycheck two weeks before we started. I posted memos and instructions in the ambulance bay and distributed individual usernames and passwords to every employee. It took some time to make sure our employees were using the system, but it resolved previous issues, such as employees saying they didn’t know their schedule, once everyone realized that the schedule was only available online.

The New System
Soon after rolling out the new system, we began using nearly every feature. Employees now actively use the trading system and hold each other accountable for submitting shift trades. Shift sign-up sheets, which are electronic forms that allow employees to see which shifts are available, are a times savings for schedules that are more difficult to fill than others.

The centralized member database allows me to send out mass information via e-mail and text messages and receive an immediate response. Even the event calendar is an effective tool for us since we provide EMS for a wide variety of events year-round. I'm able to get volunteers for events almost as soon as I post them. It's also a wonderful tool to help keep our company events organized and archived.

One key feature that helps our service is the integrated time clock. It allows me to take a closer look at unscheduled versus scheduled overtime and has also helped with our attendance records. Our administrators are overjoyed to have a system that finally ties together scheduling, time and attendance. Although our employees were hesitant initially to change how they clocked in, they had nothing but positive feedback once they got the hang of the system.

Prior to moving to an online system, our biggest struggle was in member accountability. Employees are now responsible for knowing their own schedules and submitting availability and time-off requests on time. This dramatically improves accountability.

Once employees became comfortable with the scheduling system, they became more efficient. Employees are more responsible about submitting their time-off requests or checking to see if they're on the schedule. The line of communication between our employees and administrators has become simpler and more streamlined.

The biggest change after implementing EMS Manager was in how much more effective I became as the scheduler. I became more efficient in dealing with the crews and their schedules. The time previously spent on the schedule was reduced by almost half due to time saved from contacting employees. Now I'm able to take on more responsibility at work. I have the means to look at the schedule differently to ensure we're able to shape our schedule around the needs of the company; EMS Manager gives us the comfort in knowing that our system will grow alongside our company.

We have five main companies that do approximately 90,000 runs a year out of eight stations, and we see an annual increase in volume of almost 20%. We serve more than 25 counties in Tennessee with a workforce of more than 600 employees. We operate more than 93 vehicles and are looking to expand well beyond where we are today. I can say with certainty that there's no way we could operate at the level of service we provide without online employee scheduling.

Online scheduling through EMS Manager has provided us with a modern method of managing the biggest headache in our line of work. Simplifying and standardizing our employee scheduling not only saves us time and money, it equips us to better serve our communities—both now and moving forward.

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Related Topics: Technology, unscheduled versus scheduled, time and attendance, the event calendar, scheduling, overtime, integrated time clock, EMS Manager, company events, centralized member database, attendance records


Cassie PalmerCassie Palmer is the scheduling/communications manager with First Call Ambulance in Nashville and has been with the company for six years. She was previously involved in hospital scheduling.


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