UMSN alumna and student named President’s Staff Innovation Award finalist

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Stephanie Castaing (right) and fellow nurse Mary Skrypiec review patient assignments

Balancing the workload of nurses while providing the best possible patient care is not an easy task. Each hospital unit must find a system that works for that particular area in an environment that is often fast paced, frequently changing and stressful.

“I noticed how time-consuming making patient assignments could be and how assignments were not always balanced,” said Stephanie Castaing, a University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) BSN alumna and current master’s student in UMSN’s Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program.  

Castaing works in Michigan Medicine’s Adult Telemetry/General Medicine Unit and learned charge nurses spend an average of 53 minutes per shift creating the assignments by hand. It’s time that takes them away from patient care, and despite best efforts, can result in some nurses having more difficult workloads.

Innovation in Action

Stephanie Castaing Castaing set about finding a solution. She designed a Microsoft Excel-based system called the Patient Assignment Tool (PAT). It allows charge nurses to input details such as patient needs and potentially difficult behavior, isolation precautions and room locations. The mathematical optimization model then produces suggested assignments.

With support from her manager and supervisor, Castaing conducted a trial on her unit beginning in October 2016.  She found charge nurses saved an average of nearly 39 minutes per shift by using PAT. In addition, staff nurses reported an improvement in terms of workload sensibility, such as a 31% reduction in the distance between patient rooms in a set, and nurse surveys showed an increase in overall fairness of assignments.

The tool was fully implemented on Castaing’s unit in December. While designed for that particular setting, PAT can be customized for other units.  

The Award

Castaing’s efforts were noticed beyond the health system. She was honored as a finalist for the U-M President’s Staff Innovation Award. The annual award program recognizes individuals and teams who come up with creative ideas and action to improve the university.

"This year's Staff Innovation Award nominees, finalists, and winners demonstrate that excellence manifests all across our campus in service of all aspects of our public mission," said President Mark Schlissel during the award presentation. Read more about the ceremony in The University Record.

Her Path

Castaing is an Ann Arbor native and her mother is a nurse at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Castaing shadowed her while in high school and said that was all she needed to know she wanted to be a nurse too.

“I applied for the nursing program at U-M not only because it was in my hometown, but because it is one of the top nursing schools in the country,” said Castaing. She also points to her time conducting research at U-M's Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety (CHEPS) as a key experience in fostering her interest in innovation, quality of care and collaborating with other professions.

After graduation from UMSN’s master’s program, Castaing plans to work as nurse practitioner with at-risk adult and geriatric populations who are uninsured or underinsured.


If you’re interested in learning more about the Patient Assessment Tool, send an email to Stephanie Castaing.