Two U.S. hospitals, one in Ayer, Massachusetts, and another one in Chicago, have found an innovative way to deal with nursing shortage. They post shift openings and the highest hourly rate they're willing to pay. Then, the nurses bid online for these extra shifts. The lowest bidders get the shifts and are notified by e-mail. The software behind the process, named eShift and marketed by FlexEstaff, is raising eyebrows at nurses associations. Still, FlexEstaff is negotiating with 8 more hospitals. This bidding process is almost certainly a good thing for the hospitals, but is it good for the nurses? Will we soon other industries adopt auction systems? Imagine a company telling you, "Hey, you want to make some extra dollars by building this car or writing this piece of software? Name your price, and you'll make some more cash." What do you think of this bidding process?
Here is the beginning of this Boston Globe story.
Registered nurses at Nashoba Valley Medical Center are doing what few of their counterparts anywhere can do: logging on to their computers and bidding on working shifts that have openings.
The hospital unveiled an unusual staffing software product called eShift in the spring and early summer, in an effort to manage nursing shortages more effectively, enhance patient-care continuity, give staff nurses opportunities for extra pay, and cut down on the costs of hiring nurses from temporary agencies, chief executive Andrei Soran said in an interview last week.
Under this system, the hospital posts shift openings and the highest hourly rate it is willing to pay. Nurses willing to work at least four shifts a month then may bid on the work and pay, as long as their bids do not exceed the maximum pay offered. Successful bidders are notified by e-mail. "More than 50 percent of our nurses are now using this software," he added.
||Here is a graphical representation of the eShift simple bidding process (Credit: FlexEstaff)|
Opinions are divided about this auction system.
"This is a Band-Aid approach to the nursing shortage, a way to get nurses to work for the lowest dollars. So, our union nurses wouldn't accept it," asserted David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which he said represents nurses working for 65 percent of the state's acute-care hospitals.
Soran countered: "This is shared governance" between management and the nursing staff.
The eShift program used by Nashoba is a good example of using computer technology and "taking it to a higher level, or, in this case, giving nurses control over their schedules," said Karen Moore, president of the Massachusetts Organization of Nurse Executives, a Burlington-based group.
What will come next?
Nashoba and Mount Sinai Hospital of Chicago are the only hospitals using the software, said Rod Hart, president and an owner of FlexEstaff [, the Chicago firm which sells the software]. "We'll have eight hospitals signed up by the end of this month and an additional 10 hospitals using the product by the end of the year," Hart said, declining to name specific hospitals and their locations.
Now, I repeat my question asked in the first paragraph. Can this approach be used by other industries? How will the working morale be affected if you see your colleague under-bidding you? And will this be efficient? If there is a maximum hourly rate of, say $40, what will happen if some under qualified person bids for $5, and doesn't do the job correctly? Questions are endless. Please post your comments about this bidding approach to work.
Source: Davis Bushnell, The Boston Globe, September 16, 2004