By Aissatou Sidime, San Antonio Express-News Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 28--As director of critical care at St. Luke's Baptist Hospital, Pat Price has to ensure that intensive care and other high-maintenance units have enough nurses on each shift.
Price spends hours each week calling lists of nurses to see who is willing to work -- particularly evening and weekend shifts. Price often rounds up some volunteers, but then had to pay a staffing agency to fill the remaining positions. Agencies charge $60 to $75 an hour in San Antonio, almost three times the regular daily pay rate for in-house nurses. And she is never sure she'll get the quality of nurse she wants.
Recent technical innovations mean that may be changing.
St. Luke's has joined about 50 hospitals nationwide that have gone to a system called shift bidding, which allows in-house …