Recognizing, Rewarding Medical Practice Staff an Ongoing Effort

December 14, 2012
J. Scott Litton, Jr, MD

It's the end of the year, and bonuses are likely to get doled out at your medical practice. But don't forget to acknowledge staff year-round.

Every practice goes through the same routine year after year. In last week's blog I described how I conduct the annual wellness exam of my practice's financial health. For this post, I think it is very important to remember how medical practices remain successful year after year. The astute physician would like to think that the practice is doing well because the physician is providing excellent care to his/her patients. However true this might be, it is very important not to forget the other cogs in the wheel of your medical practice - namely your employees.

When patients come to the practice, the first thing they see is your reception staff. Well paid and well thought of employees will always smile, will always cheerfully greet each patient, and will always make them feel as if they are very important. I cannot begin to tell you how many patients I have seen - new to my practice - that left their last physician because of a lack of staff friendliness. This is so very important not to overlook because your non-clinical staff can make or break your practice. Even though we sometimes get frustrated with the front office staff, we must remember that they are doing the job that you hired them for. It is wise to remember to thank them and reward them for their hard work.

The nurses are an extremely important cog in the wheel as well. These professionals are responsible for greeting the patients from the waiting room and getting them ready for the physician visit. My nurses do not just capture the vitals and place the patients in the room. Rather, they carefully interview each patient. They ask about any medication problems or changes from other physicians. They ask about any change in their medical history since their last visit. Medications are updated. The preferred pharmacy is updated. The clinical rules are reviewed and any needed tests or procedures (immunizations, Hba1c, fingerstick glucose, INR fingerstick, etc.) are ordered and the result entered into the EHR before the physician goes into the room. Once I go into the room, I review any changes that have been made and verify each change with the patient. Yes, this takes an additional minute or two of nursing time, however it keeps our work flow moving efficiently and the patients are very satisfied.

How about your office manager and/or billing staff? Do you take the time to thank them for their endless time spent with number crunching, posting payments, stuffing bills in envelopes, answering calls from patients about their bills, etc? The work performed by them does nothing to aid the patient during the clinical visit. However, their efforts do contribute to the overall vitality of the practice. Take the time to thank them for their hard work.

My staff loves to prepare a potluck lunch annually for my birthday. They do the same one day before Thanksgiving. In order to show my appreciation to them, we have an annual lunch at a local restaurant in which I provide a birthday lunch for them. I also do the same one day before Christmas. You will never find any office worker that will pass up a free lunch. Yes there is a cost involved, but the price is nominal in return for the countless hours of hard work they provide.

I also provide a year-end bonus to each employee. This bonus is typically paid out just before the shopping season starts for Christmas. What employee would not want to have some extra money in their pockets for buying gifts? Employees receive a bonus based upon a formula that produces a number taking into consideration the profits of the practice and their years worked. Everyone loves payday at Thanksgiving!

Do not forget to reward your employees for their hard work. Not only do they appreciate a free lunch here and there, not only do they appreciate the extra money at bonus time, but they most appreciate their boss telling them how much he/she appreciates their hard work and how the practice would not be successful without their efforts. By taking time to properly recognize and reward hard work, you will find that your employees will continue to strive to do their best day after day, year after year, for many years to come.