Creating your ideal schedule: 10 tips for balancing flexibility and availability

A female nurse and her young daughter smiling at each other. The daughter is pointing at a drawing they are making together at their kitchen table on a sunny morning

Since you work PRN, you probably do so (at least in part) to work on your terms. The balance between availability and flexibility varies for everyone, but here are a few tips to consider as you create your ideal schedule using the ShiftKey app.

1. Request shifts in advance and cancel shift requests if your plans change

Planning your schedule a week or two out can help ensure you have the flexibility you need, especially if you have other time commitments, like picking up your kids from school. Bidding on shifts in advance may also increase the chance that they will be accepted. You’re not committed to a shift until the facility accepts your request, so if something comes up, you can easily cancel any unaccepted requests you’re no longer available for.

2. Check the app regularly when you’re looking to schedule shifts

With over 6,000 facilities using the ShiftKey app, available shifts can change daily or even hourly. New facilities begin using the ShiftKey app all the time, too. Checking the app frequently when you’re looking for shifts helps ensure you see the shifts you’re interested in. By tapping the green heart icon next to the facilities you like to work with, you can also easily see new shifts posted by your favorite facilities.

3. Reply to facility messages promptly

As an independent professional, you’ll probably be working with different facilities a lot. You know the quality of your work, but until they work with you, a facility’s team doesn’t. Promptly replying to emails and text messages from the facilities you work with can help you build better relationships with schedulers and administrators. Keeping an eye out for facility emails and texts will also help keep you informed of important shift details.

4. Provide more than 72 hours' notice if you need to cancel

When your bid is requested, you’re agreeing to complete the shift unless you cancel. Facilities prize your carrying through on this commitment. Of course, sometimes you’ll need to cancel at the last minute, but providing at least 72 hours’ notice helps the facility make sure their patients and residents have the care they need. It also helps your Reliability Score, as cancellations made with more than 72 hours’ notice do not impact it.

5. Unlock access to more shifts by uploading facility documents

While some credentials (for example, the flu vaccine) are not required to use the ShiftKey app, certain facilities require them. If you want to unlock access to those shifts, you can upload all credentials found in the “Facility Documents” section of your profile.

6. Consider working when you travel 

We hear time and again from professionals that they love the flexibility of being able to complete shifts when they travel. Our platform is active in over 40 states, and you can work wherever you’re licensed. (Make sure you upload all state-required credentials before your trip. That will make requesting shifts while traveling as seamless as possible.)

7. Download the app and turn on push and SMS notifications

When you enable push and SMS notifications, you let technology help you manage your schedule. Notifications are an easy way to stay in the know about shift requests, upcoming shifts, and other important information. With push notifications, you’ll get updates right in the app, and with SMS, you’ll get texts.

8. Bid on multiple shifts with the same shift start time

If you want to work on specific days at specific times, try requesting multiple shifts for those times. While there is no guarantee that any shift will be accepted, requesting multiple shifts increases the chances. And, as soon as one facility accepts your bid, all other bids will be cancelled, so you never have to worry about being committed to completing more than one shift at the same time. 

9. Choose Instant Assign shifts

Some shifts are marked Instant Assign. If you are the first to request one, your request will be automatically accepted by the facility, and you’ll know what your schedule is right away. (Facilities set when they will automatically accept shifts, so shifts that are eligible for Instant Assign may vary.)

 10. Show up for your shift early 

Arriving early (especially when working at a facility for the first time) can give you the extra time you may need to launch Location Services (if the facility is using it), get settled, meet everyone you need to meet and helps provide a cushion to account for things like finding parking or figuring out what entrance to use. 

Working on your terms means you stop making personal sacrifices for work and, instead, fit work around your other commitments and your lifestyle. Whether you use these tips or not, the ShiftKey app can help you find a balance that works for you.