Journal Articles

Strategies for Addressing the Nursing Shortage: Coordinated Decision Making and Workforce Flexibility

2010, Decision Sciences

Kurt Bretthauer, P. D. Wright

Abstract

In this article, we present strategies to help combat the U.S. nursing shortage. Key considerations include providing an attractive work schedule and work environment—critical issues for retaining existing nurses and attracting new nurses to the profession—while at the same time using the set of available nurses as effectively as possible. Based on these ideas, we develop a model that takes advantage of coordinated decision making when managing a flexible workforce. The model coordinates scheduling, schedule adjustment, and agency nurse decisions across various nurse labor pools, each of differing flexibility levels, capabilities, and costs, allowing a much more desirable schedule to be constructed. Our primary findings regarding coordinated decision making and how it can be used to help address the nursing shortage include (i) labor costs can be reduced substantially because, without coordination, labor costs on average are 16.3% higher based on an actual hospital setting, leading to the availability of additional funds for retaining and attracting nurses, (ii) simultaneous to this reduction in costs, more attractive schedules can be provided to the nurses in terms of less overtime and fewer undesirable shifts, and (iii) the use of agency nurses can help avoid overtime for permanent staff with only a 0.7% increase in staffing costs. In addition, we estimate the cost of the shortage for a typical U.S. hospital from a labor cost perspective and show how that cost can be reduced when managers coordinate.

Citation

Wright, P. D. and K. Bretthauer (2010), "Strategies for Addressing the Nursing Shortage: Coordinated Decision Making and Workforce Flexibility," Decision Sciences, Vol. 41, pp. 373-401.

Kelley School of Business

Faculty & Research