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July 2010, Volume 40 Number 7 , p 11 - 12


  • Janet Gray Michaelis BA, RN


ANYONE WHO'S FACED the challenge of filling last-minute staff vacancies knows how daunting and frustrating this can be. You have a phone list of prospective staff to contact, but you know that some are on vacation, some are probably asleep, and others work so infrequently that you doubt it's worth the time to try contacting them. Where do you start?I work in a 400-bed urban hospital in the Midwest. Our ED has 23 acute care beds, and our staff works 12-hour staggered shifts. I fill in as relief charge nurse on some weekends. Often faced with last-minute staff vacancies, I was eager to find a more efficient way to reach off-duty staff.In October 2008, I approached my manager with an idea for using e-mail-to-mobile phone messaging to contact staff. After getting the nod for a pilot project from the directors of ED and human resources, I developed a simple system that lets us quickly reach 97% of our ED nurses with a single e-mail. By taking advantage of our existing e-mail system and employees' mobile phones, we've been able to save most of the time previously spent making phone calls. In addition, because everyone learns of vacancies at the same time, opportunities for extra hours are made available more fairly. This article tells you how we put our plan into action and describes our results.We rely on the mobile text messaging protocol known as SMS (short message system). Using this protocol, you can set up an e-mail address to any SMS-enabled phone if you know the 10-digit phone number and which carrier provides service to that phone. The e-mail address for all phones of a specific carrier are formatted the same, "phone_number@carrier_suffix." For example, the address for an AT&T phone would be formatted "" See Converting phone numbers to e-mail addresses.Because the hospital had provided us with e-mail accounts, we thought we'd be able to send a message to any number of phones once we created new e-mail contacts

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