THE beginning of the year usually brings holiday plans to mind and most practices will have experienced a spring rush of holiday bookings, usually in the form of stickers on a wall planner or notes on a rota somewhere. This then has to be cross-referenced by whoever does the rota and amendments made and cover arranged.
As the one who does the vets’ rota in our practice and keeps an eye on the other rotas, it is another of those stresses and challenges that go with running a practice. And in most practices like ours those tasks are carried out by people with a concurrent full-time day job of being a vet, nurse or receptionist.
It is also just one aspect of the multitude of people management tasks that needs to be undertaken. Last year I spent some time researching various different ways of managing our human resources (HR).
Holiday (booking) blues
I also realised that there must be a better way of booking holiday myself when on a few occasions we would discuss where and when to go on holiday when at home in the evening or weekend, then have to wait till the next working day, cross-reference the work holiday planner, then go back home to try and book something.
This has occasionally ended in me driving to work at night to find the vets’ holiday planner (usually fallen off the wall and down behind a filing cabinet) to check that, then boot up the practice management system to check my vets on-call rota, collate that information and then go back home to book a holiday. There had to be a better way.
So absence management was on the list of things to improve on, as well as integrating that straight into the staffing rota, plus I wanted a basic HR function – things like making sure people have read the H&S info and there was a paper or electronic trail to confirm they had done; similarly making all the practice policies available and a way of ensuring and proving if necessary that they had been read. Also, tracking sick leave was something I wanted to get more organised.
I had been to a few HR and H&S seminars and had visits from a couple of companies. Peninsula Business Services delivered a very good halfday seminar and definitely offered a very comprehensive service; however, it was, for a four-vet practice, about £200 per month with a tie-in of several years. It looked great to have that service if things went wrong with staff, but for day-to-day running not what we needed.
My next thought was to look to the cloud and at online services and of the many of these my favourite was “BreatheHR”. You can sign up for a free trial and it certainly was a good and cost-effective (nearer £20 per month) way of keeping track of staff training, appraisals, a good paper trail of what they had been asked to read (H&S, practice policies, etc.). The main drawback was no integration of the holiday planner into a rota and no rota function at all.
There are many online rota programs out there. Here’s a few all easily searchable online: “Findmyshift”, “Rotacloud”, “Rotaville”, “AT Veterinary systems” and the one I am now using, “PARiM”. Not many have any sort of HR function though. Some are let down by poor holiday planners and no way of communicating with staff through the planner.
PARiM was one of the only ones that did it for a reasonable price (for a four-vet practice about £25 per month).
A team effort
PARiM was founded in 2012 with the aim of making rota planning and holiday planning more of a collaborative effort between staff and management. They started marketing the business last year and serve a variety of client businesses from fewer than 10 to more than 500 members of staff.
The core of the software is a schedule that can be pre-populated with your working patterns then set to repeat each week/two weeks/four weeks or at a pattern to suit you. I have put our vets’ on-call in as a repeating pattern and immediately we can see all the weekends and nights we are each working for as long ahead as we want to.
You also then can fill in the consulting patterns, reception shifts, etc., on a similar basis and filter by location and job type. So you could look at everyone, or just the nurses, or just the nurses at the branch clinic, or all the staff at one clinic only, etc. What then makes it useful as a staff member is I can go online at home to arrange holiday and flick across to the PARiM site and see when I am on-call and if anyone else is on holiday the week I want.
Staff book holiday as “requested” which is then approved by a manager. I can book my holiday (or approve a member of staff ’s) and it will immediately push all my scheduled consulting shifts (or the staff member’s shifts) into an “open shift” area. This is easily visible so then the person who has to re-jig the rota (also me) can see what needs to be done.
As a manager I can also look at the whole practice’s holiday plans and sit down once a week with other staff members and organise cover for receptionists’ and nurses’ slots and move people around a bit.
Decisions on cover can be immediately rota’d or noted on the relevant holiday. This has so far been much more successful than coming to work and finding people on holiday with no cover arranged!
For the rota generally, if you want to you can e-mail extra shift requests, weekly rotas, etc., out to staff whenever you choose, which is useful for larger practices which may have staff at the branches who they don’t see very often.
There is also a basic document upload feature on it so all our standard policies are up there for staff to view and also various other documents such as H&S policy.
Clocking in and out
One feature we have not yet used is the live time clock which, when activated, will allow clocking in and out of work which can then generate wages. This also can come with a mobile phone app with a GPS tracker! Another good feature is the constant live online help from the PARiM office.
In summary, I am hoping that it will make staffing the place efficiently a collaborative venture between all staff with a single focal point for that, rather than an on-the-hoof affair with various notes, wall planners, etc., in different places that then have to feed into various rotas.
Even computer-sceptic members of staff have commented that just being able to book holiday from home is really useful. For more info just Google “PARiM” and get in touch with them via the website.
The irony is that I am writing this from home where our broadband has just failed. So no holiday booking for me today! If I had (a) got mobile reception at home and (b) owned an Android phone or iPhone I would be able to via the PARiM app.
That’s what you get for living in the middle of nowhere and having a Blackberry!