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Retaining staff takes more than money


Training, tailored benefits and paths for career advancement help build loyalty and reduce employee attrition

staff | © Andrey Popov - stock.adobe.com

© Andrey Popov - stock.adobe.com

When more than 75,000 Kaiser Permanente clinical and support workers walked off the job, it sent shock waves among health care employers everywhere. Even before the strike, primary care doctors in outpatient practice had been grappling with a talent shortage that could risk access to essential preventive and emergency care in communities across the U.S.

The growing need for outpatient care has changed the face of health care, impacting operations and staffing. Private practices have fewer staff and, while most employees in large health care institutions have distinct roles, in many private practices support staffers wear several hats and have multiple responsibilities. That means that practices must be creative to provide opportunities for advancement and mobility within their organizations.

Whether your practice has been treating patients for years or you’ve just opened your doors, your success depends on hiring and retaining great health care talent. Failing to keep your best performers can potentially result in understaffing with a less qualified workforce, ultimately hindering your ability to provide quality patient care.

According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry leads the country in the number of employees voluntarily quitting, so it’s very important to form and maintain a solid working relationship with new hires from the start…and have a strategy to keep them on board longer term.

  • Training is key for advancement and job satisfaction. A recent Study on Allied Health Workforce Retention, commissioned by Ultimate Medical Academy and conducted by ACUPOLL® Precision Research, revealed it is not enough to provide training to improve current job performance. If given the opportunity for training that provides a clear career path to help them advance in their careers, 71% percent of health care employees in support roles at smaller organizations would expect to stay longer at their jobs. Providing more or better training, such as seminars, mentoring, and new certifications on the topics that could pave the way for career advancement and higher pay can help strengthen employee retention.
  • Living expenses impacted by work are a big deal to employees. Employers would do well to look at creative and practical ways to subsidize or offset some of these costs and responsibilities for their team members. In many large organizations, employers offer the perks they think may be most desirable, often without assessing their value to employees for retention.

In private practices, instead of going with standard, across-the-board benefits, make yours fit the needs and wants of your staff by assessing their top priorities and partnering with other practices or other organizations in your building or on your block to provide discounted group rates or shared services.

  • Many health care workers do not feel they have a clear career path and opportunities for growth.Personal and professional development opportunities are significant drivers of employee engagement and retention. In the Study on Allied Health Workforce Retention, 52% of health care employees in support roles at smaller organizations said they are less likely to stay at a job in health care because they feel there is less opportunity for job growth. They want paths and opportunities with different functions or in other departments.

By better understanding the skills, preferences and performance of their employees, physicians in outpatient practice can take steps to minimize attrition and design career paths based on each employee’s life stage and ambitions. Upskilling and proactively informing the staff about internal job opportunities—or even job swapping with a partner practice—can help your employees build a longer career with your organization.

  • Support staff are more dedicated and connected to a workplace that offers a higher purpose. Many staff spend more time at the practice than at their own homes. Therefore, the more supportive atmosphere you can generate within the practice, the better the staff will work together as a team. When asked for the Study what would make current workers stay at their support roles at smaller organizations, they ranked “latitude to be able to treat patients with compassion and dignity” and “being kept up-to-date on patients' status” among their top five. Likewise, it is important for practices to ensure that employees are working at the top of their licenses, using their training and highest level of skills for their own satisfaction and the practice’s benefit.
  • Money matters, too. The Study on Allied Health Workforce Retention and reality tell us that fair pay reflecting job responsibilities, hours worked, training and comparable salaries are all factors contributing to job satisfaction. For most, that transition is already underway: 23% of employees at smaller organizations say they are looking for a new job now, and 41% have looked within the past six to 12 months.

From front-office staff to the medical assistants taking vitals, these are the people who represent you and give your patients a connection to your practice. Find ways to show you understand their importance to the practice’s long-term success. A staff that feels heard and appreciated and has meaningful prospects for growth is a loyal, more productive staff. And a more productive staff provides better patient care, which ultimately leads to an improved patient experience. Implementing even a few of these tips can have a positive impact on retaining your best employees and achieving the overall business goals of your practice.

Thomas Rametta is president of Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa, Florida

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