Dumbing Things Up

Improving nurse scheduling by example: part 1

written by ben on 2012-08-04

My current work is here. It's just a minimal amount of work, and incomplete because as you'll see below because I need to add some UI to make things work as I've designed.

I did some googling\^w research. One thing which immediately stood out is that not only are there a number of papers on staff scheduling, but there's quite a bit of research and work invested specifically into nurse scheduling. Some of the papers date back more than 50 years, and new ones are still being written. My "of course" was quickly turning into an "of crap." As I was intending to write a program, the concept of Constraint Programming or CSP for short stood out to me. On my path to where I am now, I found a constraint programming framework (with solver) called Choco. There are a number of open source and/or free solving frameworks apparently, but Choco was definitely the most well documented. In the end, I've not been able to easily adopt any of the frameworks, and my solution abandons CSP for what I'll term ICSP (interactive CSP) whereby the person using the software must actively modify the constraints if the problem has no immediate solution.

Enough abstract nonsense, below are the  constraints. Actually they are really just notes I took. Some are not exactly constraints, but there to demonstrate differences in the classical problem if you've done any googling\^w research on your own.

The issue I found with the solver frameworks is that my math is really rusty, and figuring out how to describe some of the above constraints was very intellectually taxing. It was at this point I realized I was probably not going to be able to create a solver unless I wanted to go back to school and write one for my PhD thesis.

I think this post is long enough now. Stay tuned for the next post where I describe how I decided to tackle the problem further and make math people weep while engineers jump for joy (or something like that).