Maximizing the nurses’ preferences in nurse scheduling problem: mathematical modeling and a meta-heuristic algorithm


Department of Industrial Engineering, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran


The nurse scheduling problem (NSP) has received a great amount of attention in recent years. In the NSP, the goal is to assign shifts to the nurses in order to satisfy the hospital’s demand during the planning horizon by considering different objective functions. In this research, we focus on maximizing the nurses’ preferences for working shifts and weekends off by considering several important factors such as hospital’s policies, labor laws, governmental regulations, and the status of nurses at the end of the previous planning horizon in one of the largest hospitals in Iran i.e., Milad Hospital. Due to the shortage of available nurses, at first, the minimum total number of required nurses is determined. Then, a mathematical programming model is proposed to solve the problem optimally. Since the proposed research problem is NP-hard, a meta-heuristic algorithm based on simulated annealing (SA) is applied to heuristically solve the problem in a reasonable time. An initial feasible solution generator and several novel neighborhood structures are applied to enhance performance of the SA algorithm. Inspired from our observations in Milad hospital, random test problems are generated to evaluate the performance of the SA algorithm. The results of computational experiments indicate that the applied SA algorithm provides solutions with average percentage gap of 5.49 % compared to the upper bounds obtained from the mathematical model. Moreover, the applied SA algorithm provides significantly better solutions in a reasonable time than the schedules provided by the head nurses.