Integrating the new physician

November 12, 2009
Owen Dahl

The most important aspects of integrating new physicians into your practice are clear communication and understanding each others' viewpoints.

The most important aspects of integrating new physicians (and other employees as well) into your practice are clear communication and understanding each others’ viewpoints. Unfortunately, these goals are not always simple to achieve.

The different generations that are part of our current work environment have unique perspectives and professional needs. Many practices have reported a difference between the expectations and values of their senior and junior physicians. Whereas older physicians typically expected that working long, hard hours (including many nights of call) was a requirement of the profession and part of their identity as a physician, today’s younger physicians typically seek more of a balance between their work, family, and personal lives, and are less willing to regularly give up their nights and weekends for the job. Both perspectives are valid and must be understood to keep generational rifts from forming and to ease the new-physician integration process.

Ensuring that new physicians are integrated into your practice well is essential to the longevity of your working relationships and the stability of your practice. To succeed in this strategy, teaching the new generation is key. There are two essential aspects to this strategy. The first and foremost is communication. This means listening to what your younger physicians are saying and, more important, observing what they are doing as they spend their first few days in your practice.

It also means communicating your practice’s mission statement and values. Younger physicians will better understand how your practice functions if they understand the values of the practice. Your practice values should influence key decisions about patient care and the business side of the practice. If you consistently follow your mission statement and values, the results will be positive and your example will be easier to follow. Facilitating an open dialogue of listening and sharing values will set the proper tone with your new employees.

The first step is teaching them how the practice operates. The new physician has significant clinical knowledge, but may not understand procedural issues such as using the hospital’s EHR system or learning how your practice schedules procedures. Diplomatically address the fact that while the new physician has the appropriate skills and training, he must learn how to use those skills within your practice. Here again, it may be valuable to listen and observe, since there may be new and better ways of doing things. Periodic formal evaluations are important forums for checking in on how a new physician is doing within your practice and setting goals for improvement.

It is also essential that the senior physicians become true mentors to new physicians and take the time to discuss patient interactions, problems, and questions. Training your new physicians shouldn’t stop at developing working relationships between fellow physicians. It is important to include your nursing and administrative staff as well. Staff members can be a rich source of practice information, and can help transition new physicians into practice operations. They should be included in the teaching process. Ask staff members to actively listen, communicate practice values, and support senior physicians in integrating new physicians into your practice. Communication is the key. If there is adequate communication between all parties, the outcome should be the successful integration of the new physician into your practice.

Owen Dahl, FACHE, CHBC, is a nationally recognized medical practice management consultant with over 26 years of experience in consulting for and managing medical practices and author of “Think Business! Medical Practice Quality, Efficiency, Profits” and “The Medical Practice Disaster Planning Workbook.” He can be reached at odahl@owendahlconsulting.com or 281 367 3364.