I am fortunate to be a solo physician practicing medicine in my hometown in rural Virginia. Many of my patients I have known since childhood and being responsible for their health and well-being is not only a tremendous honor and privilege, it is a tremendous responsibility. Being the "homegrown" physician that I am, I feel that our patients expect a higher level of care from my practice. The physician who thinks that good medicine and a good bedside manner are the only requirements for good patient care is unfortunately sorely mistaken. An integral part of the patient experience is the interaction with the employees of the practice.
Since the employees of a medical practice are an essential cog in the wheel of care provision, the wise physician will find methods to fairly compensate and reward excellent patient care. In my practice, several methods have been utilized and it is essential to remember that there is no one single perfect method of employee recognition.
Medical practices are currently facing a very difficult economy. Patients are coming to the office less often, payments from insurance companies and CMS are not keeping pace with the current index of inflation. At the end of the day, nothing says thank you better than cold, hard cash. My employees are all given routine salary increases at regular intervals. While this can be difficult to do in years past, it is still essential.
My employees are facing the same economic woes as are our patients. Gas prices remain high, food and electricity prices are increasing annually, and the amount of discretionary income seems to get smaller as each paycheck passes. Equally important as regular salary increases, it has also been well received for employees to receive productivity bonuses. Our practice has been blessed to be busy on days when other practices are not, and our employees know that when additional walk-in patients are added to the schedule that this can be very important when bonuses are calculated.
As physicians, we work very hard and we feel that we are very deserving of the vacation time that we take. Our employees work equally as hard and even though they are not taking call and spending their weekends at the hospital, their efforts can be very fatiguing at times. Raises and bonuses are nice, but sometimes the ability to earn extra paid time off can be very well received. Our employees have families too and they long to spend time away from work with their families just like we physicians do.
It is also important to remember that these people who work in the office are human too. On days when the schedule is full or overbooked, I am very careful to take the additional time to walk through the office and tell each employee how appreciative I am of their hard work and care given to our patients. I have the regular recognition weeks bookmarked on my calendar and never fail to acknowledge my secretaries, nurses, and nurse practitioners when the respective appreciation weeks pass through the year. A very simple flower and balloon arrangement with a note from their boss is sent to them at their desk each year. This practice has been very well received by all employees.
We must remember that our patients are the lifeblood of our practice. We know that as physicians we are providing excellent care to our patients. A well-recognized and well-compensated employee will further improve patient satisfaction scores. I am very thankful when my patients tell me how much they enjoy the care they have been given, not only by me, but especially by my office staff.
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