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By Nicola Hawkinson, DNP, RN, RNFA
In the healthcare world, rapid change is underway in terms of coverage, physician shortage and the rise of nurse practitioners and physician assistants seeing patients. Practices are finding it hard to keep their staff performing at its best while adjusting to these transitions. Making sure your staff runs at an optimal level can be achieved by adhering to three objectives: organizing your practice, evaluating your staff and incentivizing them properly.
Organization is the easiest and most effective way to ensure that medical staff is functioning well on a day-to-day basis. All exam rooms should be identical and stocked in the same manner; this will eliminate confusion and allow physicians and nurses ample time with patients. Hiring quality front desk receptionists and file clerks will increase patient flow and decrease wait time. If patients are satisfied with the quality of care, then they will likely return and recommend friends. This ultimately leads to a boost in the practice’s revenue.
Once the practice is organized, there should be an emphasis on evaluating staff consistently throughout the year. Evaluating staff regularly directly leads to a practice’s ability to continue to run smoothly. Sometimes physicians are unsure how to evaluate their staff, but creating guidelines with HR or practice managers can help. After you hire an employee, you must keep up with evaluations in order to make sure that your practice is operating at its optimal level. Evaluation helps provide documentation in cases where termination is necessary. It also prevents unfairness in promoting, rewarding and transferring staff to other positions.
Evaluations must take into consideration professional and personal qualities and develop a rating system that applies to all employees. No matter what job responsibilities employees have, they should be evaluated on the same scale. Rate employees in a way that is fair, but make sure that they are filling all aspects of their job descriptions. Both clinical and non-clinical employees should understand that they are crucial to a practice operating smoothly. There shouldn’t be tension or resentment in the workplace. As an employer, your responsibility is to make it known that every employee in the practice has an important purpose. If you are playing favorites with the clinical or non-clinical staff, that will cause hostility something your practice cannot afford.
Evaluations of employees should come from the employer and the practice manager. Peers should not be responsible for evaluating other employees. Take a look at who each employee works directly with and ask their opinion, but do not have their peers evaluate them. You’re looking for an overview of an individual’s job performance; you are not looking to have peers criticize them, so speak to their peers in private.
You should take the time to know every employee who is working for the practice. This may seem like a daunting task, especially in a large organization, but in the long run you and your employees will be happier for it. Take an active role in the hiring process and schedule weekly meetings with staff. Have a pre-evaluation, evaluation and a follow-up to make sure that employees’ needs have been met.
Lastly, incentivizing clinical and non-clinical members of your staff can be beneficial both in the short and long term. Every employee has a different set of job responsibilities, and incentivizing them really depends on how he/she fulfills those duties. The practice can benefit by rewarding employees for work that also maximizes the business returns. Have them take employee surveys or use a suggestion box to get a better idea of what will help productivity in the office. It is also a good idea to regularly give patients surveys so you can get an idea where the practice might be falling short from a patient’s perspective.
Keep in mind that times change as does employee motivation. Newer employees may appreciate an extra day off for good work, where as a senior employee with more vacation time may not find that as appealing. Money does not motivate every employee, and this is where employee surveys come in handy. Incentives should be based on a desired outcome and should be based on an individual’s performance, not the entire office. If the motivation is based on the entire office, then you won’t be able to tell who is working hard and who is not. Incentives help build trust between you and the employees you are managing. Employees perform better when they know their work is being appreciated. Incentives are a great way to motivate and maintain good work ethic. Keep in mind that employees will be motivated differently, so come up with incentives that span a wide range to work for each and every staff member.
Keeping medical staff working to the best of their ability takes time and careful execution. Practices that foster an environment of self-motivation and colleague collaboration will experience exponential benefits, including increased success.