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7 Scheduling Must-Haves for EMS & Fire Departments

ESO Staff

One of the unique – and often challenging – elements of running an EMS agency or fire department is the complexity of scheduling requirements. Whether you’re deciding which staff members at what stations are assigned to which vehicle, or filling an open shift with the correctly qualified crewmember, there are many moving parts in keeping your team functioning correctly.

When using a scheduling workflow solution, the top-to-bottom process set-up and organization is vital. Not only must you ensure every shift is filled, but it must also be filled with the correct team member. You need to quickly see who is interested in taking on more hours, asking to take PTO, and getting close to overtime hours. You need an easy way to communicate with your entire team and ensure that your message has been received and read, without cluttering up inboxes and spending hours responding to one-off emails.

There are many different platforms on the market available for EMS and fire organizations today. It’s true that they all will have similarities, but no two are exactly the same. While each agency or department must make its selection based on its specific needs, below are seven of the most commonly used and asked-for tools for employee scheduling in the EMS and fire industries.

1. Employee Availability Submission

Allow employees to submit and view their current availability, while also giving them the ability to easily change it as needed from their smartphones, tablets, or computers. By doing this, you are not only improving accountability on the employee’s side but also increasing efficiency for managers. Once new availability schedules are submitted and approved, management can go in to contact and/or schedule available employees quickly.

2. Automatic/Template Scheduling

Some EMS and fire employees work better with a routine. There are automatic/template scheduling features that allow management to go in and create a set schedule that will always have certain workers on certain days. This feature also allows management to create specific shifts and rotations based on cost centers and/or qualifications.

3. Manual Scheduling and Edits

There will be situations in which a schedule will need to be changed at a moment’s notice. For example, someone has called out sick, and an open shift needs to be filled immediately, or a new hire is replacing someone on the shift for the rest of the month. In these situations, it is best for management to use the manual scheduling feature that allows them to go into published schedules and manually change the shift’s information. This can be editing items such as the shift start time, duration, assigned employee, and qualification requirement.

4. Trade Shift System

A trade shift feature allows employees to trade shifts between one another easily. This feature is helpful because it will only accept a trade between two qualified employees to work in a particular role (for example, a paramedic couldn’t trade with an EMT). In addition to trading shifts, the trade shift feature should also allow employees to give away shifts to qualified and available employees.

Management can either completely automate the approval process based on compliance issues such as overtime or require administrator approval before the swap occurs. Once approved, the new shift should automatically show up on the new employee’s calendar and be taken off of the original employee’s calendar.

5. Overtime Scheduling Control

The goal of any overtime scheduling feature is geared toward keeping overtime costs at a minimum. The overtime scheduling feature not only keeps a real-time running total of overtime but can also report on Planned vs. Actual hours to provide a current snapshot on hours. This helps you make important decisions for your organization and make changes to your schedule quickly as needed.

6. Shift Bidding

Shift bidding takes the stress out of filling open shifts. Managers can quickly blast out notifications through email or text messages regarding available shifts for employees to work. Once sent out, an employee will receive a notification with all the shift information and a link that will send management a note saying that the specific employee is interested in the shift.

When management returns to the bid, they will view all employees who would like to work on the shift and choose. Once a particular employee is selected, the scheduling software will notify the chosen employee and add the new shift to their schedule. It will also notify the employees who were not chosen for the shift.

7. Time Off/Vacation requests

Mobile scheduling software allows employees and managers to request and manage their time- off from their computer or on-the-go. In addition, the time off/vacation tool has a feature that can notify management when the time-off bank is about to go negative and refuse requests for anyone who has gone into negative hours. This feature helps both management and employees plan effectively and make requests and approvals a more straightforward conversation.

A powerful scheduling tool, designed to address EMS agencies and fire departments’ specific needs, can genuinely help take some of the pain out of managing your teams. A more straightforward interface – accessible from almost anywhere – paired with real transparency for each employee’s current needs, availability, and shift options, helps your entire staff feel more confident and informed. This improved communication and insight not only helps with managing your agency or department but ensures your team is always fully staffed and ready to serve the community.

Take a tour of the ESO Scheduling solution for EMS and fire now.

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