How to Fill Nursing Worker Openings with Your Staff on Vacation

June 12, 2024 Abby Anderson

As the summer months approach, many employees in long-term care will request well-deserved time off to relax and recharge. While vacations are essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance, they can also lead to staffing challenges. This is especially true in healthcare settings where adequate nurse-to-patient ratios are crucial. Ensuring your facility operates smoothly during these periods when more requests for time off are coming in requires strategic planning and creative solutions. We outline some effective strategies below that can help you best plan on how to fill nursing worker openings when your staff is on vacation.

Plan Ahead

The key to managing staffing shortages is proactive planning. Start by creating a comprehensive vacation schedule for your staff. Encourage nurses to submit their vacation requests well in advance, which allows you to identify potential gaps in coverage early on. Use Smartlinx scheduling software to keep track of these requests and ensure that not too many nurses are off at the same time.

Utilize Per Diem and Part-Time Staff

Per diem and part-time nurses are valuable resources for filling temporary vacancies. These nurses are accustomed to flexible schedules and can often step in on short notice. Medely’s 4 Ways to Improve Healthcare Scheduling Over The Holidays suggests locking in on help from allied professionals: “If there are pros who work particularly well with your team, offer them holiday shifts before they make other commitments”.  Maintaining a pool of reliable per diem and part-time staff can help you cover shifts without overburdening your full-time employees.

Leverage Internal Float Pools

Creating an internal float pool, comprised of nurses who can work in various departments as needed, is an excellent way to address staffing shortages. Float pool nurses are trained to be adaptable and can provide coverage across multiple units. Plan your float pool employees with their skills in mind. This not only helps fill gaps but also ensures patient care standards are maintained.

Offer Incentives for Extra Shifts

Incentivizing current staff to take on additional shifts can be an effective short-term solution. Offering bonuses, overtime pay, or other rewards can motivate nurses to cover for their vacationing colleagues. Acknowledge what members of your team might be giving up to be on shift. Ensure that any extra work is voluntary and that nurses are not overworked, as this can lead to burnout and decreased job satisfaction.

Partner with Staffing Agencies

Staffing agencies or staffing marketplaces specialize in providing temporary healthcare workers, including nurses. Partnering with a reputable agency can help you quickly find qualified professionals to fill in during peak vacation periods. This approach can be particularly useful for last-minute vacancies or extended absences.

Cross-Train Your Staff

Cross-training your nursing staff to perform various roles within your facility can provide greater flexibility when filling shifts. Nurses who are comfortable working in different units can help cover for each other during vacations. This strategy also fosters a more collaborative and versatile team.

Implement Flexible Scheduling

Flexible scheduling options, such as split shifts or shorter workweeks, can help manage staffing needs. Allowing nurses to have more control over their schedules can increase job satisfaction and make it easier to find coverage during peak vacation times.

Enhance Communication and Coordination

Effective communication and coordination are vital when managing staff shortages. Regularly communicate with your team about upcoming vacations and staffing needs. Empowering employees to resolve conflicts themselves first and foremost can remove employers from the risk of giving more merit to some employee’s vacation request compared to others. Smartlinx offers mobile tools that streamline communication and ensure that everyone is aware of their shifts and responsibilities.

Invest in Retention and Employee Satisfaction

A happy and satisfied workforce is more likely to be flexible and willing to help during staffing shortages. Invest in initiatives that promote job satisfaction, such as professional development opportunities, a positive work environment, and competitive compensation packages.


Filling nursing worker openings during vacation periods can be challenging, but with strategic planning and the right resources, it is manageable. By utilizing per diem and part-time staff, creating internal float pools, offering incentives, partnering with staffing agencies, cross training your team, implementing flexible scheduling, enhancing communication, and focusing on employee satisfaction, you can ensure that your facility remains adequately staffed and that patient care standards are upheld.

Preparing in advance and being adaptable will allow you to navigate these periods smoothly, keeping both your staff and patients happy. Smartlinx is a healthcare workforce platform specifically designed to help long-term care facilities be proactive and solve their workforce challenges. Schedule a demo to find out more! 

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