Departing Medical Practice Staff: Be Prepared to Move on

May 12, 2012

Here are some of the most efficient and effective ways of handling departing support staff members and how to bring someone new into your practice.

That proverbial knock on the door before work, at lunch, or at the close of the day comes and then: "Can I talk to you for a moment?" Those are words we rarely like to hear, as we are keenly aware of the conversation to follow.

So, one of your key support staff members gives you two-week's notice (longer if you're lucky!). When should you start looking for their replacement? Immediately - if you don't already have someone in mind for the position. Sulking and allowing yourself to slip into denial stating, “I just don't have time for this,” will not help you or the remaining staff transition through this process.

Filling the void

At the first opportunity you have, call a quick, stand-up staff meeting letting everyone know you will be losing a member of the team. If this is some sort of supervisory position, let your staff know that you prefer to promote from within for this position, and they are all welcome to interview for this opportunity. You will find it is much easier to replace a lower-level employee, than a higher level one.

Ask some of your colleagues if they know someone who is looking for employment in this area of the business. Oftentimes, you will find that simple networking with like-minded individuals who share your same work ethic and ideals, know people who are highly qualified and available. There are many other networking sites such as LinkedIn or other professional organizations and groups you may belong to where you can ask around if anyone is looking for work.

If you have any colleges or universities in your area, contact them. They have student professional development departments that are always looking for companies to place their recent graduates with. This could be a great option if you decide to promote from within, and then end up with an open vacancy in an entry-level type position.

Your new addition

Now that you have found the perfect employee, training them immediately and properly are next. You set the tone of the working relationship in these critical few first days. Make sure you are prepared with your standard employee handbook which outlines some of the critical items such as:

• Working hours
• Pay administration / Time off / Benefits
• Contacts
• Expectations (timeliness, body art covered at all times, clean and well groomed, treat others with respect, patient privacy, etc.)
• Employee relations

Have the new employee sign and date by the next day that they have read the manual and agree to abide by the basic policies presented. You are both aware and on the same page, so to speak, about these expectations. Now you can get on with the actual training for the position.

Each position in the company should have their own set of working procedures for that job. If you need help writing these procedures, enlist your staff. This will empower them and let them know you value their work and their ethic. Nothing like a morale boost to keep your staff happy. Once you review their procedures for accuracy, have each person create their own notebook with these procedures included. This is a great help if someone goes on vacation or is out sick for a period of time. Other staff members can divvy up the tasks and by utilizing these procedures, perform the tasks that are required and therefore allow your practice to continue to run smoothly.

Be sure to enlist feedback from your remaining staff members throughout the training and learning process. They are your eyes and ears while you are building your practice.

Meet with your new staff member after a week or so to see how they feel the transition is working. Find out if there are any questions they might have. Then, set another meeting a month away. In this meeting you will be able to review the employee and stop any behavior that might not be the direction you intended for them to follow. Always have a 90-day review. Those 90 days are your time to assess the employee, and their opportunity to exercise their right to leave if the fit is not what they were looking for.

There are always surprises and unknowns in life. Help your practice and your staff by being prepared for them as much as possible, and watch the stress-level immediately decrease.

Find out more about P.J. Cloud-Moulds and our other Practice Notes bloggers.