New Staff, Same Patients

January 13, 2016

By: Steph Weber Patients tend to form emotional attachments to your staff. Here’s how to avoid an exodus of patients when their favorite employee leaves.

Patients find comfort in seeing familiar faces at a medical practice, and often, they gravitate towards a favorite employee. While patients may initially come for the medical care, this emotional connection is what roots them to the practice long term.

Whether it’s a receptionist, nurse, or physician, the departure of a favorite staff member may tempt patients to follow. Here’s how to avoid an exodus of patients:

Introduce new employees

Trust is an integral factor in any successful healthcare relationship, especially when it’s built on an unwavering foundation of honesty, predictability, and mutual respect.

So when an employee is leaving a practice, it’s best to share the news with patients to avoid fissures in that sacred foundation. “If the departure of the staff member is known in advance, that staff member should proactively communicate to the patient that they will be leaving the practice,” said Randi Busse, president of Workforce Development Group, Inc., a customer service coaching and training organization located in Massapequa Park, N.Y. “If a replacement has been hired, introducing the patient to the replacement would be ideal.”

Busse also encourages her healthcare clients to openly discuss their commitment to continuity of care. Reassure patients that the new staff member will provide the same, high-quality care they have come to expect. “Validate the patient’s feelings, that they are part of the practice’s ‘family,’ and that [their] experience [won’t] suffer,” she said.

Maintain a positive practice culture

Introductions are a great first step, but patients need to establish a deeper connection with new staff to feel secure during the transition. Practice culture plays a critical role.

As new employees are training and becoming acclimated to the practice, the dynamics of the office will likely shift. Maintaining a positive and welcoming culture should always be paramount.

“Patients can sense the vibe of the atmosphere and they won’t want to keep coming back if the environment is cold or negative,” said Samantha Markovitz, a patient advocate and wellness and lifestyle coach at GraceMark, a healthcare coaching company in Orange County, Calif. “Patients living with major health concerns, particularly chronic illness, rely on the competency and kindness of the office staff and find comfort in the consistency of their healthcare routine.”

The big picture

Even though patients may have a particular staff member with whom they hold a stronger connection, they won’t leave the practice if they feel valued by the remaining staff.

“When all employees are providing outstanding service to patients, meaning that is the norm rather than the exception, one person leaving should not have a negative impact on the patient,” said Busse.

Steph Weber is a freelance writer hailing from the Midwest. She writes about healthcare, finance, and small business, but finds her passion for the medical field growing in sync with the ever-changing healthcare laws.