This contribution deals with the distributed version of the
nurse rostering problem. It is considered in a hospital with many separated
wards. The nurse rostering problem within a ward is ‘the local
problem’, rosters within a ward are ‘local rosters’. At any time in the
process, i.e. at the time of the construction of a roster for a certain time
period as well as in the course of this time period when unexpected
events cause rescheduling, wards may call in the help of their peers. At
this level negotiation will take place. The details of the local rosters do
not necessarily enter this negotiation level, and when they do, they may
be translated from a local representation to a generally accepted vocabulary.
After a motivation for a distributed approach, a general architecture
is proposed and a negotiation protocol is described.