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You don’t need a parachute to skydive!

November 1, 2011


This week begins the four week staffing schedule that contains the first major holiday of the season – Thanksgiving Day! My family has been waiting anxiously for this schedule to be posted. You see, my sister is a nurse.

This particular schedule determines whether we cook the bird on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday of the third week in November. We’re a very flexible family when it comes to holidays. You have to be flexible when you have healthcare workers in the clan. As we all know, healthcare delivery is a 24/7/365 commitment and essential staff members like nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and CNAs among many others are usually required to work a certain number of holidays each year. So the families adjust and change the times or, like my family, the day of the holiday celebration.

We’ve been doing this for over 35 years. It’s part of our holiday routine. We just wait for the schedule to be posted before setting any plans. No one complains. But this year is different, everyone is complaining, especially me!

This year the schedule has my sister working a combination of 12 hour shifts and on-call (I don’t know why they call it “on-call” they are always called in) Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during Thanksgiving week. My family is not being given a chance to be flexible. We are being asked to simply eliminate my sister from the holiday celebration. Unreasonable!

While I stew over this unjust treatment, my sister reminds me that “you don’t need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice!” In other words, they are being very short sighted, concerned only about filling shifts and not caring about the impact on the employee, an approach that accomplishes the task at hand today but puts them at risk to lose the employee in the future.

This scenario is a strong reminder that staff scheduling is not just a numbers game. It is not just plugging holes with bodies. There is great responsibility where the impact on a person’s world is so significant.

Thanksgiving, what will we do? Well, there has been a lot of discussion. There will definitely be a turkey cooked at some point over the holiday weekend. Right now, it looks like the clan will be heading over to the hospital on Thanksgiving Day to spend 30 minutes together in the cafeteria during my sister’s meal break. Did I mention that we’re a very flexible family?

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