A Guide to Creating an Effective On-Call Schedule

September 29, 2023 · 3 min read
Marketing @ Hypercare

Managing an on-call schedule for doctors is a crucial aspect of healthcare administration. It ensures that medical care is available around the clock, addressing emergencies and patient needs. However, creating an efficient on-call schedule can be a complex task, as it requires balancing the needs of patients, doctors, and the healthcare institution. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the essential steps to make an on-call schedule for doctors that works seamlessly.

1. Understand the Basics

Before diving into the scheduling process, it's vital to have a clear understanding of the basics. This includes knowing the number of doctors available, their specialties, and the anticipated patient load during different times of the day and week. Familiarize yourself with any legal or contractual requirements that dictate on-call scheduling for doctors in your region.

2. Establish Clear Policies and Guidelines

To create a fair and transparent on-call schedule, it's essential to establish clear policies and guidelines. These should include:

By outlining these policies upfront, you'll set the groundwork for a smooth scheduling process.

3. Choose the Right Scheduling Software

Utilizing scheduling software is crucial for simplifying the scheduling process. Look for a robust solution like Hypercare that allows you to input all relevant information, such as doctor availability and restrictions. The software should also enable automated scheduling, taking into account the policies and guidelines you've established.

4. Collaborate with Your Medical Team

Involve your medical team in the scheduling process. Doctors should have the opportunity to provide input on their preferences and constraints, such as family obligations, continuing education, or research commitments. By incorporating their input, you'll create a more accommodating and sustainable on-call schedule.

5. Prioritize Fairness and Equity

Equity in on-call scheduling is essential to prevent burnout and maintain morale among your medical staff. Consider factors like seniority, experience, and workload when assigning on-call shifts. Avoid overburdening any particular physician or group of doctors.

6. Optimize Shift Length and Frequency

Consider the length and frequency of on-call shifts carefully. Shorter shifts (e.g., 8-12 hours) may be more manageable, especially during busy periods, whereas longer shifts (e.g., 24 hours) can provide extended coverage. Striking the right balance is crucial to ensure doctors remain well-rested and capable of providing quality care.

7. Implement a Fair Rotation

Creating a rotation schedule ensures that on-call duties are distributed evenly among your medical team. A common approach is to use a rotating schedule that cycles through various shifts (e.g., day, night, weekend) to distribute the workload fairly.

8. Have a Contingency Plan

Emergencies and unexpected situations can disrupt the on-call schedule. Have a contingency plan in place to handle situations such as last-minute call-offs or staff shortages. Identify backup doctors or locum tenens physicians who can step in when needed.

9. Regularly Review and Adjust

On-call scheduling is not a one-time task; it requires ongoing review and adjustment. Periodically assess the effectiveness of your schedule, gather feedback from doctors, and make necessary improvements. This iterative process will help you refine the schedule over time.


Creating an effective on-call schedule for doctors is a critical aspect of healthcare management. By following the steps outlined in this guide and prioritizing fairness, transparency, and collaboration, you can develop a schedule that meets the needs of both your medical team and your patients. Regularly reviewing and adjusting the schedule will ensure its continued effectiveness and sustainability, ultimately leading to better patient care and a healthier work-life balance for your doctors.

Looking for an on-call scheduling solution? 

Hypercare streamlines scheduling management, saving time and minimizing errors. With our intuitive platform, administrators can create roles and input shifts in minutes, with automatic alerts for conflicts, gaps, or potential post-call. Take team collaboration one step further with the Self-Serve Marketplace, allowing providers to trade shifts effortlessly. Learn more about Hypercare's on-call scheduling software for healthcare organizations.

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