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How to Motivate Practice Employees to Work Well Together


For those of us in a busy medical practice, it can be difficult to motivate employees that are already very busy to help others out when in need.

How do we motivate office employees to work well together? This is the age-old question. For those of us in a busy medical practice, it can be difficult to motivate employees that are already very busy to help others out when in need.

In my medical practice, I am the only physician and have two nurse practitioners on staff. Each provider has their own nurse and we also have a floating nurse available for helping out when the other nurses are occupied. Whether it is for rooming patients and getting them ready for the physician or nurse practitioner, inevitably the once-efficient work flow process can be interrupted. Our office is very busy and the level of demand for same-day access is very high. Patients are also able to walk in without an appointment for allergy injections, vaccines, and anticoagulation monitoring.

With the busy patient flow comes the need to call patients to inform them of laboratory and x-ray study results, preauthorization for medications, and other unforeseen tasks that can keep the staff very well occupied. The first thing to remember and ensure does not happen is that one certain nurse is not overworked or has excess strain when other nurses might otherwise have free time for helping out. This can contribute to fatigue and burn out and can also result in a high staff turnover and low long-term retention.

I choose to address this problem by cross training nurses to be able to complete different tasks. Each nurse is able to monitor our fax server for incoming information and route such information such as laboratory results, x-ray results, and consults to the appropriate provider for review. It is very important to remind the office staff not to become fixed on one specific task and keep in mind the bigger picture of taking care of the patients that are in the office at that very moment. All nurses have on their screens messages to return to patients, refills to send to the pharmacy, etc., but each nurse is reminded that there is no task more important than serving the patients present in our office.

Waiting times are monitored, patient satisfaction surveys are reviewed, and job performance reviews are all conducted on an ongoing basis. The way I choose to motivate my employees to work together and function as a team is to place a productivity bonus available for keeping the satisfaction at the highest level possible. While this can function well to allow employees to earn extra money in the form of bonuses, it still does not eliminate the tension that can exist in the workplace. Inevitably, one nurse will think she is working harder than the other and that can make it difficult to motivate them to help their co-worker out when the need arises.

While there is no perfect solution to motivating employees to work well together, the best solution is to make sure each employee feels appreciated. Even though monetary bonuses are nice and appreciated, we must not forget to properly acknowledge hard work and going the extra mile for patient care. In our office, I do not award employee of the month or other titles than can do nothing but facilitate tension. Rather, I choose to continually let each employee know that I appreciate their efforts and appreciate their hard work toward caring for our patients. The combination of allowing for bonuses to be earned and the "pat on the back" that all employees appreciate has allowed our office to continuously earn very high patient satisfaction scores and produce a virtually endless word of mouth referral source for new patients.

For more on J. Scott Litton and our other Practice Notes bloggers, click here.

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