Recognizing employees who go the extra mile

Recognition is key to keeping practice staff motivated.

Employees, like children, need constant reinforcement and motivation.Our employees need to feel that they are valued and appreciated. A motivated employee is to be treasured and not taken for granted. When you catch an employee going above and beyond the job description or more than is described in the employee manual, be sure to acknowledge this behavior as you are likely to find the employee repeating the behavior again and making every patient have a positive experience with the practice.

For example, a patient mentioned to me how helpful the medical assistant was in arranging an imaging study when the wait time for the study was several weeks. When I heard the patient compliment the medical assistant (MA), I asked the patient to hold that thought and left the exam room to find the MA and brought her into the exam room with the patient. I asked the patient to repeat his compliment so that the MA could hear first-hand from the patient how appreciative he was for her efforts. The MA was beaming, and she shared the compliment with several other staff members giving “legs” to her compliment that she received from the patient.

Another example was a from a patient who developed a rash after using a medication which was expensive and could not be returned to the pharmacy. My nurse, upon learning of this situation, asked if she could use samples of another drug with a similar pharmacologic profile but from another class of medication. At the end of the day, the nurse delivered the samples to the patient’s home. The patient wrote a glowing thank you note to me acknowledging this extra mile effort, actually several miles, that the nurse extended to the patient. This note was shared with the entire staff at the next staff meeting thus giving credit to the nurse but also letting the others on the staff know how this kind of effort is so very appreciated by our patients.

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, said, “A paycheck will buy one kind of loyalty. But nothing can substitute for a few well-chosen, sincere words of praise.” This motivational experience with the nurse took only 45 seconds; it cost nothing; and it had an outstanding motivational impact on the nurse and the rest of the staff.

Demonstrate to your staff that you truly care about them. One of my employees had acute sinusitis and need to see an ENT doctor. She called to obtain an appointment and was told the first opening was in two weeks. I contacted the ENT doctor and explained the situation and he saw the lady in his office at the end of his day. This was very appreciated by the employee and demonstrated to all the employees that I was interested in their health and well-being. Remember that your staff won't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Bottom line: It doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to motivate our employees. Sometimes it is simply saying thank you for a job well done. Remember, a pat on the back is far better than a kick in the pants!

Neil Baum, MD, a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Baum is the author of several books, including the best-selling book, Marketing Your Medical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, which has sold over 225,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish. He contributes a weekly video for Medical Economics on practical ideas to enhance productivity and efficiency in medical practices.  His 5–7-minute videos and short articles provide practical ideas that can be easily implemented and incorporated into any medical practice. Dr. Baum can be reached at doctorwhiz@gmail.com.