I have been working for a few months now as an after-hours Emergency On-Call Officer. Which means that whenever there is a risk to any of the clients my employer has around South Brisbane, and it happens after hours, I get rung.
Problems include clients getting sick, clients having a crisis when they don't have a rostered worker on, workers getting sick so they can't go to clients, and workers getting drunk and pretending that they didn't realise that they had a shift.
And, unfortunately, many of these calls come down to the unfortunate fact that our rostering system doesn't really work.
It doesn't work because it's too easy to miss that a shift hasn't been filled. It doesn't work because the people who also need to know, the On-Call Officers, aren't always informed when there's a change.
The first problem, of course, is that the entire system is run by people. But, of course, there are ways around that using automated technology.
The first problem is therefore that the entire system is run using Excel and Word.
Without naming names, I work for a pretty large and, indeed, statewide organisation. And one of their fairly large services still organises rosters using spreadsheets and word processors.
Which means that when the contact details for a worker are updated, they have to be updated in a minimum of three different places, which means that the third one tends to get ignored and is horribly unreliable.
Which means that there is no, that's no system in place within the software to remind people that something hasn't quite worked.
Which means that it's possible to book a worker for conflicting shifts, if the worker had a brain-fade moment and forgot about the first one while being asked for the second one.
Which also means that last-minute changes aren't communicated to the people who get calls along the line of "Who's coming tonight?", find out that officially nobody is, and panic.
Oh, and there's another problem I forgot about: We used to have a laptop with a mobile Internet dongle which could be used to view current client rosters, to get the latest information ourselves. Except we can't now, because the IT policies changed and now they're not allowing confidential information to be accessed externally to an office.
So we're back to were we started.
The first possible solution that presented itself to me was a rostering system that stored all data in one place, could print out any different list as necessary from the same data that it only had to be updated once, could tell you who was banned from working with individual clients, who was available, who wasn't, and who had already worked their maximum allowable hours that fortnight.
Then, and this is the important part, whenever a shift for the current week is changed, it will send an SMS update to relevant mobiles, including the workers, the client and the On-Call Officers.
In the meantime, however, we need a stop-gap measure.
So here's a thought: Secure twitter.
Every time a senior worker puts the phone down and makes an update in the (Excel) client rosters, they can change into another window and type "Jane doing Fred this evening". Then, when the office closes and I start work at 4:30, I can log in (hell, even into the organisation's website) and see a run-down.
Slightly more permissible than accessing the entire rosters, surely?
Mind you, thinking about it...
How is this too different from a desktop application that sends multiple txts? And we have those, surely.
Of course, the ultimate problem will remain: Getting the senior/office staff to actually use the bloody thing.