Monthly clinic assignments for internal medicine housestaff

Jonathan F. Bard, Zhichao Shu, Luci K Leykum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This article presents a new model for constructing monthly clinic schedules for interns and residents (i.e., housestaff) training in Internal Medicine. Clinical experiences during the three years of residency occur in inpatient and outpatient settings, and on generalist and specialist clinical services. These experiences include spending time in a primary care setting caring for an assigned group of patients over time. Housestaff rotate through different clinical experiences monthly, with their primary care clinic time overlaid longitudinally on these other clinical services. The exact amount of primary care time spent varies between clinical rotations. In fact, it is the variable clinic hour requirements that drive the scheduling process, and is what distinguishes our problem from most personnel scheduling problems. Typically, staff schedules are driven by shift or hourly demand and are designed to minimize some measure of cost. The objective in our work is to both maximize clinic utilization and minimize the number of violations of a prioritized set of goals while ensuring that certain clinic-level and individual constraints are satisfied. The corresponding problem is formulated as an integer goal program in which several of the hard constraints are temporarily allowed to be violated to avoid infeasibility. To find solutions, a three-phase methodology is proposed. In the first phase (pre-processing step), clinic assignments for a subset of the housestaff are either fixed or excluded each month in light of restrictions imposed by their current rotation. In the second phase, tentative solutions are obtained with a commercial solver. In the final phase (post-processing step), all violations of the relaxed hard constraints are removed and an attempt is made to lexicographically reduce violations of the major goals. The effectiveness of the methodology is demonstrated by analyzing eight monthly rosters provided by the Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. On average, we found that up to 7.62% more clinic sessions could be assigned each month using our methodology, and that the corresponding rosters admitted an average of 37% fewer violations for 9 out of the 11 soft constraints than did the actual schedules worked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-239
Number of pages33
JournalIIE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • goal programming
  • internal medicine
  • mixed-integer programming
  • Resident scheduling
  • soft constraints

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research


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