Making a Fair Physician On-Call Holiday Schedule

Making a Fair Physician On-Call Holiday Schedule

Using Balanced Scheduling and a Holiday Shift Mindset

Physicians seeking new jobs are increasingly citing lifestyle issues as critical factors when making decisions about where to practice. Consistently ranked first among such issues is call duty.

To help maintain a realistic schedule among your physicians that keeps them happily employed in your practice, you may want to fine-tune how you structure your call duty – especially the holiday schedule.

Here are a few methods for creating an equitable holiday call schedule.

Pizza Party Method: This method is quite scientific and involves two critical factors: free food and a group physician meeting. As the name implies, many practices hold an annual pizza party often in June or July and create the holiday call rotation for the following year. If you use this method, be sure to bring a copy of your current holiday tally report as a starting reference point (good on-call scheduling software like TigerSchedule makes tally reports easily available). Everyone works together to cover all of the holidays via a volunteer sign-up process, and at the end of an hour, the year is finished. Everyone leaves happy and full.

Round Robin Method: This method is often a default when the physicians are not interested in volunteering for any holiday assignments. The Round Robin will allow a group to schedule holidays out for several years – the number of years depending on the number of providers. Here, you will list years across the top of a spreadsheet, all the holidays down the left side, and physician names will be in the middle. This method will also rely on past holiday tally reports (found in TigerSchedule) to enable you to continue with the current assignment cadence.

Diversity Method: Taking advantage of the diversity within your practice, the diversity method will primarily consider which holiday each provider observes, and which providers have young kids. If the Christian physicians cover the Jewish and Islamic holidays, then the Jewish and Muslim physicians cover the Christian holidays. The remainder of the holidays can be split evenly, or people can volunteer to work them.

Holiday & Year 2021 2022 2023 2024
New Year’s Day Dr. A Dr. B Dr. C Dr. D
Labor Day Dr. B Dr. C Dr. D Dr. A
4th of July Dr. C Dr. D Dr. A Dr. B
Memorial Day Dr. D Dr. A Dr. B Dr. C
Thanksgiving Dr. A Dr. B Dr. C Dr. D
Christmas Day Dr. B Dr. C Dr. D Dr. A

How to Make Holiday Shifts Bearable

If you are one of the unlucky ones who find themselves A.) on call in a physician lounge waiting on labs, or B.) resting in an on-call room inside of a sterile hospital waiting on the next Trauma, here are a few tips you can use to help make the upcoming holidays bearable.

    1. First and foremost, turn that frown upside down. No one likes a cranky doctor or provider, especially the sick and helpless. Try to make the best of a hard situation by being in a good mood. After all, happiness (and Scroogeness) is contagious.
    2. If protocols allow, bring in a special treat for other team members. Sure, it’s not your responsibility or job, but you may score big points with the other staff by swinging by the local grocery store or bakery and picking up some cookies or other festive holiday treats to share with the team. Don’t forget to add some hot chocolate or eggnog to the mix.
    3. Forget proper protocol and break out the Santa hat. After all, Christmas is only one day a year, and no one is really going to write you up for wearing a Santa hat to bring some cheer to your patients.
    4. Play holiday music. Winter days can be shorter and dark, and people might be missing their families. Music can bring a smile to people’s faces.
    5. Text or conduct video sessions with family and friends (by the way, TigerConnect has an app for that) while they are celebrating. Every doctor has a smartphone, so use the technology to your advantage and do some video chatting.
    6. Finally, remember to thank all of those that are at the hospital to support you – including the nursing staff, housekeeping, security, food service, lab techs, and radiology techs. Don’t forget that unlike you, many didn’t have a choice if they worked the holiday or not. For some, the awesome holiday pay is a fair tradeoff, for others, it’s a rotation, and for the rest, it’s just the unfortunate luck of the draw. Chances are you won’t be working next Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas, so be sure to show your appreciation to everyone who’s there to support you.

We at TigerConnect are very thankful for all of you who are on-call this holiday season. After all, any of us could end up in a car accident or begin having chest pains, and we’re comforted in knowing that there are medical professionals who have selflessly agreed to be on-call so that we may be treated and safely returned to our families. Thank you!

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