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On Tuesday 8th September, Joe Conway – Ireland Account Manager from Allocate Software hosted a webinar – ‘Improving staff management and work-life balance’ with Letterkenny University Hospital.

Throughout the webinar, the Letterkenny University Hospital team share their experiences of the eRostering solution – HealthRoster. This ranged from the implementation phase through to the current adoption and highlights the difference it made to both staff and patients.

Becoming the eRostering pilot hospital in Ireland

Dr Anne Drake – Director of Nursing, Letterkenny University Hospitals

Letterkenny became the HSE pilot site for eRostering in Ireland in 2015. The objective of the pilot was to identify how eRostering can drive workforce efficiencies whilst meeting the needs of both the staff and patients.

Technology is what was needed to keep staff happy and to make the most efficient and effective use of our nursing resource. As there were no other rostering systems in Ireland at the time, research started between Letterkenny University Hospital, the nursing and midwifery planning and development unit and national procurement. We looked at seven rostering organisations as part of the research, but Allocate was quickly identified as the organisation with the solution that would meet the criteria.

HealthRoster wasn’t just a rostering system, it combined eRostering with quality and compliance tools to ensure that we can measure patient care and safety. This was done through Allocate  SafeCare. It was challenging at first but with the support of Michelle Donnelly – the Project Manager at the time, the HR department and the hospital nurses, we are now finalising the roll-out of the system and getting it into a business as usual state.


How did the implementation of HealthRoster go?

Michelle Donnelly – Initial Rostering Lead (former Project Manager) Letterkenny University Hospitals

I was responsible for the implementation of eRostering once Allocate’s HealthRoster was selected. It was, however, more than just the implementation of HealthRoster, it was also the deployment of EmployeeOnline which was hosted on the Cloud.

The icing on the cake was the bi-directional Interface with the staff HR system. If there was a change in contract, work time or address, the interface would automatically feed into HealthRoster for pay files to be extracted. This meant that there was no manual data entry for payroll, providing the department with accuracy and transparency.

Finally, SafeCare was introduced. It provided rich data from the start in the three units it was piloted in – acute, medical and primary care. It enabled the team to quickly identify gaps in staffing for patient care.

One thing I would say to anyone who is looking to implement an eRostering system, is that you need to create a rostering policy for all staff. You also need to be clear that the quality that you have in your HR system is good. The data your get out is only as good as the data entered into the system.


What are the benefits you’re seeing from the system?

Yvonne Hanson – Rostering Administrator, Letterkenny University Hospitals

The main benefit is the staff’s work/life balance. Staff can go online on their mobile phones to view their rosters and book requests which have been set so that it is fair and transparent for all. It is also good for managers of the wards as they can see the rosters and who has sent in requests for both work and annual leave.

Contracted hours is also seeing a big benefit on HealthRoster. If a change of hours is made from 39 to 30, it will come through the HR system and will automatically update HealthRoster. This will then prompt the manager when changes in hours happen so that they can respond and ensure that shifts are covered.


I can talk forever about benefits. We love it. People are knocking on the door for it.

Geraldine O’Connor – Current Rostering Team Lead, Letterkenny University Hospitals

97.5% of nursing rosters are now on eRostering. Of those, we have 541 staff live to pay out of a total of 1181 staff. HealthRoster ensures that staff are paid for the hours that they work and paid in a timely manner.

During the start of the Covid pandemic we were still rolling out the project, however we quickly put all nurses onto HealthRoster and then over time, gradually added their units to HealthRoster. We also added new codes to the system too to help us with the accurate reporting of absences. This was under ‘Covid-19 Special Leave Paid’ but we could then break it down further to identify self-isolation, caring responsibilities, travel restrictions etc. This report was shared daily with managers and is still sent to senior management and the HR department today.

With the redeployment of around 200 nurses during the initial surge, ICU went up to 100 staff. We were able to create new skills in HealthRoster – specifically an ‘ICU support nurse’ skill. This enabled us to look at the report and identify who we could redeploy to ICU or the Emergency Department (ED) with the required skill-set.


Do you have to provide staff with devices to use?

Geraldine O’Connor – Current Rostering Team Lead, Letterkenny University Hospitals

Because system is cloud hosted, staff can use their own devices to manage their rosters. They can use whatever they are the most comfortable with, whether that’s a phone, laptop or tablet. Through EmployeeOnline, staff are able to log-in, check and change their rosters from anywhere with an internet connection. They can also book leave and see who else is on duty with them.


How does Allocate Software’s Customer Success Agent support the programme?

Michelle Donnelly – Initial Rostering Lead (former Project Manager) Letterkenny University Hospitals

We have weekly calls scheduled with our agent and will be scheduling quarterly face-to-face visits too.

We set tasks and work towards them together. We’re currently receiving support with setting up 6-week calendars.

The team know that if there’s ever any issues that can’t be solved quickly through the customer portal, we can call our agent for support. They’re always at the other end of the line.


Currently being used for nursing and healthcare assistant (HCA) staff. Any future plans to roll-out to other staffing groups?

Yvonne Hanson – Rostering Administrator, Letterkenny University Hospitals

At present, the system is procured for nursing. Our plan is that we will finalise the completion of the nursing rosters and then live pay. But we now have other disciplines looking to be added on to it too.


Do staff engage with rosters directly electronically or do you print off rosters for them?

Yvonne Hanson – Rostering Administrator, Letterkenny University Hospitals

We would like everything to be digital but we know that people like to view a paper roster too. Therefore, some units do print a paper copy of their roster. However, people do understand that if any changes are needed, they need to be done so through HealthRoster and on a daily basis. This allows the operational manager to have an accurate view of nursing staffing levels at any given time.


As a result of Covid, Allocate made HealthRoster available to other units including the Letterkenny Covid Test Centre. What was the rostering experience for the centre at that time?

Judith McGlynne – Senior Physiotherapist and Clinic Lead for the Test Centre, Letterkenny University Hospitals

I was responsible for rostering 40 staff in the test centre. I had a just a couple of hours with Michelle to learn how to use HealthRoster, but it was so easy to use and straight forward I didn’t need much more time than that!

We’re currently responding to a large increase in tests and therefore are having to respond with increasing staffing requirements. Sometimes I’m changing hours and adding new staff but as soon as rosters are ready, I send a quick text out and within minutes, the shifts are taken.


If you were starting the implementation again, would you do anything differently?

Michelle Donnelly – Initial Rostering Lead (former Project Manager) Letterkenny University Hospitals

You can never have enough engagement with staff. Every stakeholder group – staff at home trying to juggle childcare, staff in isolation – you have to understand and work towards what works for them.

We started off with a communications plan on paper, but that changed quickly. You have to continue to improve and develop and you need to be available to provide support and keep it simple.

There’s also a huge amount of data available in the system, so there’s definitely untapped potential there!

If you would like to hear more about how HealthRoster and Allocate can revolutionise rostering at your organisation, or find out about our complimentary roster assessment to highlight where gains can be made in your rostering, please contact us at [email protected]

You can also listen to the webinar in full, by visiting our website.

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