On-Call Scheduler Leadership

Beyond the rules, day-off limitations, and tally time-frames there is the “wizard behind the curtain”, the On-Call Scheduler.

We’ve all tried this: create the perfect on-call schedule that honors ALL the rules, grants ALL Provider requests, while producing fair tallies and spread EVERYONE can agree with. At some point, we realize there is no such thing as a perfect schedule, that “fair” resides in the eye of the individual beholder, and what is really needed is an honorable schedule that is equitable over time.

What do highly satisfied Groups have that other Groups don’t?

Physicians most satisfied with their on-call schedules have Scheduler Leaders who craft the schedule based on a deep understanding of their providers. The Physicians have empowered their Scheduler to make reasonable exceptions to the “rules”, supplied them with appropriate scheduling software tools, and support the difficult decisions the Scheduler must make to keep a harmonious team environment. Even if they do not have a traditional executive title, the leadership role of these Schedulers is highly valued within the organization.

What characteristics do these exceptional Schedulers share that make them more than simply “managers” who happen to maintain the schedule?


These schedulers do not simply maintain the on-call schedule in a fill-the-order fashion; they take “ownership” of their role by advocating for “best fit” ideas even if they may be uncomfortable for Providers to hear. The scheduler thinks about the needs of the many vs the one, difficult to please physician.


Their scheduling process is transparent to all, and they don’t play politics with people. They keep everyone informed and take responsibility to ensure communication is clear and maintained.


They want to ensure good things happen for the organization regardless of who gets the credit. They share success, own up to failure, and learn from their mistakes.


By sharing their hard-earned scheduling knowledge with others, their skills are multiplied rather than hoarded. They aren’t afraid to document their process including all of the “gory details” of the Group’s rules with its many exceptions included and make sure there is a trained backup scheduler in place.


Their natural enthusiasm is contagious in a fun, balanced way that encourages those around them and inspires trust.


If they are a Physician Scheduler, they often “take one for the team” to even out the schedule. If the Scheduler is a non-physician, they are assertive (not aggressive) in getting cooperation from their Physician colleagues to make the occasional sacrifice needed to cover a difficult date.


On-Call Scheduling Leaders are open to change and new ideas. They are life-long learners who think outside of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” to make change happen. Moving from paper schedules to on-line physician scheduling software is a natural progression for them, as is the idea of schedules in SmartPhones.


Being criticized, standing up for others, and being seen as imperfect isn’t easy. They are willing to take the risk to put their good and bad ideas out there!

Key Takeaway

Physicians satisfied with their on-call schedule have a “secret”: great on-call scheduler leadership!

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