Category: Professional Posters
Purpose: Unplanned absences due to employee call outs creates emergency staffing issues, especially during off hours. Over time, call outs lead to employee burn-out, increased employee turn-over, a reduction in the quality of pharmacy services provided, and negatively impact employee engagement. Collaborating with front line staff to develop a sustainable and standardized strategy to proactively manage call outs will help raise awareness of the impacts of unplanned absences, provide more transparency in call out coverage, reduce the immediate burden on the staff to find coverage to fill the staffing gap, sustain minimum staffing requirements and improve teamwork and engagement of employees.
Methods: The Pharmacy leadership team led meetings with front line pharmacists and technicians to review engagement survey results and historical call out data. Employees reflected on survey results related to unplanned absences and engaged in discussions about ideas to proactively prepare for these unplanned absences, how to appropriately triage a call out, and also addressed cultural issues that may be contributing to unplanned absences. A group of front line employees took information from the discussions and collaborated to identify strategies to manage unplanned absences, which were later presented to the staff for further discussion and selection. The employees chose a hold back method which would be used when no volunteers were willing to stay to cover the shift. The hold back list was prioritized by seniority and required the person on site, and in the position closest to the top, to cover at least four hours of the open shift. Once the shift was completed, the name of the volunteer or employee being held back was moved to the bottom of the list. The task group helped develop a policy and procedure document and led subsequent open forums to establish an implementation timeline, discuss barriers and concerns, and answer questions from the staff.
Results: Unplanned absence data was reviewed for a matched three month time frame (January, February, March) prior to implementation and post implementation. Excluding absences related to Family Medical Leave Act, a total of 103 shift call outs occurred in 2018, compared to a total of 67 in 2019. This represents a 35 percent reduction in total unplanned absences following implementation of the hold back program. A total of 29 shifts were categorized as unplanned absences unrelated to illness prior to implementation, compared to a total of 12 following program implementation, representing a 60 percent reduction. While finalized employee engagement survey data will not be available until August, pulse polls and follow-up open forums with the staff have suggested an improvement in employee engagement related to appropriate staffing and stress levels.
Conclusion: Using employee engagement survey results and historical call out data as a platform for the town hall discussions helped frame the issue and focus the solution on a sustainable action plan to manage unplanned absences. Inclusion of front line staff in the development, design and implementation of the plan helped establish ownership and accountability of the issue, garnered buy in from their colleagues, and also helped reduce the number of unplanned events, unrelated to illness based on awareness and transparency of the data.