On Call, A Timeline

Managing the right staffing levels for your business is key to maximizing profit and maintaining employee satisfaction. I know this because I watched one of the business channels once. Also, I had a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for three months in 1999. For most businesses this isn’t rocket science. Even restaurants that have variable customer flows can track trends and mostly know which holidays and events are going to impact their staffing needs. Hospitals, on the other hand, are the dumpster fire of staffing and resource planning.

In a nutshell you fully staff every floor weeks or months in advance because you have zero idea how many people on a given day will decide to walk into traffic while texting, or will perform the infamous – “hold my beer, watch this” routine. The end result is some days every room in the hospital is full, and some days half your floor is empty.

The hospital is terrified of having to pay for a gaggle of nurses with nothing to do and access to closets full of cool medical supplies. Stedy Stand® jousting tournsara-stedy-1aments in the hallway, syringe darts, compressed air + tubing + tape + wheelchairs… a MacGyver playground. The chaos and mayhem that would ensue is unimaginable.

The brilliant solution is to wait until about an hour before the next shift starts, realize “oh crap, we have too many nurses” and then then start calling people to put them “on call”. On call means that I get paid approximately 75 cents an hour to sit at home and wait for “the call”. The rule is that when I get “the call”, I have 30 minutes to be at work. You can’t go anywhere and can’t start any type of project in which immediately dropping what you’re doing would be a bad thing.

So the “on call” timeline usually looks something like this:

0530  – Phone rings, you’re officially “on call”.
0530 to 0730 – Happy dance, more coffee, catch up on whatever social media outrage happened overnight, more coffee, renounce all social media, more coffee.
0730 to 0800 – Make serious plans for completing home projects: Laundry, organizing Tupperware drawer, clean-up the workbench and put away tools from some project three weeks ago, replace all burned out lightbulbs and smoke alarm batteries, start writing a best selling novel.
0800 to 0845 – Check social media to see if there’s suddenly world peace and political harmony. More coffee.
0845 to 1000 – Carry load of laundry to basement, get distracted by dog barking and then start watching YouTube videos.
1000 to 1100 – Check the fridge at least four times in case anything new magically showed up. Watch a breaking news story about a grain elevator that collapsed somewhere in North Dakota. Spend 15 minutes Googling grain elevators. Decide the coffee isn’t working and you’ll just close your eyes for a couple of minutes and then start your projects.
1138 – Phone rings, you’re no longer on call and need to go in.

Dammit, how am I supposed to get anything done?