Branching Strategies in a Branch-and-Price Approach for a Multiple Objective Nurse Scheduling Problem
The efficient management of nursing personnel is of critical importance in a hospital’s environment comprising a vast share of the hospital’s operational costs. The nurse scheduling process affects highly the nurses’ working conditions, which are strongly related to the provided quality of care. In this paper, we consider the rostering over a mid-term period that involves the construction of duty timetables for a set of heterogeneous nurses. In scheduling nursing personnel, the head nurse is typically confronted with various (conflicting) goals complying with different priority levels, which represent the hospital’s policies and the nurses’ preferences. In constructing a nurse roster, nurses need to be assigned to shifts in order to maximize the quality of the constructed timetable satisfying the case-specific time related constraints imposed on the individual nurses’ schedules. Personnel rostering in healthcare institutions is a highly constrained and difficult problem to solve and is known to be NP-hard. In this paper, we present an exact branch-and-price algorithm for solving the nurse scheduling problem incorporating multiple objectives and discuss different branching and pruning strategies. Detailed computational results are presented comparing the proposed branching strategies and indicating the beneficial effect of various principles encouraging computational efficiency.
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