An Auction System for Nurse Scheduling

Open Access
De Grano, Melanie Lynn
Graduate Program:
Industrial Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 24, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Deborah Jean Medeiros, Committee Chair
  • Jose Antonio Ventura, Committee Member
  • Catherine Mary Harmonosky, Committee Member
  • Michael Freimer, Committee Member
  • nurse scheduling
  • auctions
  • integer programming
  • healthcare industry
Inflexible work schedules are a major source of dissatisfaction among hospital nurses. The time and complexity involved in creating schedules that simultaneously satisfy hospital requirements and nurses’ preferences can lead to frustration among staff, and eventually, nurse shortages. This research develops a scheduling system that allows nurses to individually express their preferences and attempts to honor those preferences while meeting hospital standards and regulations. The system consists of an auction step, in which nurses bid on their preferred shifts, an award step, and an assignment step. Nurses bid for the shifts they want to work using “points”. After bidding is over, an optimization model seeks to award the highest bidders insofar as possible while meeting hospital requirements. In the assignment step, the model allocates unfilled shifts to nurses who have not yet met their minimum hours. The base model is designed to handle bids which specify days in which nurses would like to work. An extension of this model is developed in this research to simultaneously handle requests for working days as well as days off. A more complex version of the auction system is also created to model the emergency department at York Hospital. Test problems indicate that a high percentage of requests are being awarded as a result of the methodology, and at a faster rate than other scheduling methods. This interesting application of auctions has potential to revolutionize the scheduling process for nurses and many other types of employees. Incorporating nurses’ personal preferences through the auction process will increase staff satisfaction with their schedules and quality of life.