Flexible scheduling is one of the biggest attractors to hospital work for nurses. It's also a source of problems when people feel they are not getting the schedule they require for things like child care, school, and other personal factors. I'm handling the scheduling again. At The Old Place, it was the first responsibility I gleefully threw back at leadership when I disgustedly gave up my Team Leader position, but I must admit, I have excellent skills where scheduling is concerned, and so I always offer to do this task.
My scheduling process is unique. What I have done is placed everyone's name into Excel with the dates across the top. I print a blank schedule (names down the left side, dates across the top) and everyone just puts down an "N" for the days they wish to work. Every night that I work, I take these sheets and type that "N" into the computer, and I've programmed Excel to, for each day, count the total number of "Ns" in that column. So along the bottom of the sheet, I have a running total of the number of people that have signed up for the shift (each job description has its own sheet).
The trick to this is, as everyone comes in to work on a daily basis, they are supposed to examine this sheet, and as folks add themselves in (with me updating and re-printing the sheets several times a week), they shift their days around so that nurses on the over-staffed days voluntarily shift to one of the under-staffed days for the week.
This goes on continuously for 4 weeks, and I take the sheets up two weeks before the next schedule is to begin. Usually, there are not that many changes to be made, and I keep a list of who I move so that the same person is not moved every time. The final balancing act usually takes me about an hour (that's scheduling for two units, for nurses, nursing assistants, secretaries and monitor techs).
I know, some of you will balk at the idea of entering schedules on a daily basis. But really, it only takes about 5 minutes to put in the changes that get penciled in from one day to the next, and the constantly updated total at the bottom of the sheet really helps folks figure out when they have overstaffed. The constant message is always that it is better they move themselves (or arrange trades), because they all know that my final balancing will, without exception, have the same number of staff on duty each night.
It has worked out really well, but there are still some folks that just don't understand the consequences of their decision to go into nursing, instead of something like banking. I do have my "special children" every month, who get upset because I've moved them. But I always tell them they have had 4 weeks to move themselves, and chose not to do so. That usually settles them down.
The excel function, CountIf(range,value), is easy to use, if you are fluent in Excel.