Supporting your staff while reopening the practice

May 11, 2020

Your patients aren’t the only ones feeling uneasy coming back to a medical office during the coronavirus. 

You’re concerned about how patients are feeling when it comes to returning to your office during the coronavirus, but it may be easy to forget what the staff is going through. They feel a driving need to help but also want to stay safe themselves. Even those that told you they were raring to go may feel uneasy once they step inside and realize the office they imagined will not be the same. Here, we look at how physicians can help them so they can help patients.

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Rules in Place

From basics such as social distancing to cleaning, give them an unambiguous sense of how you will keep the office healthy. “I think engaging everyone in the process, having that process really outlined and sharing with everybody what you’re doing and the why behind it really helps promote a sense of team and collaboration,” says Dr. Savita Ginde, chief healthcare officer at Stride Community Health Center who is overseeing COVID-19 testing. “Everyone sort of knows their role in keeping everyone together safe and also I think provide some reassurance that there are steps being actually taken to help protect them as much as possible.”

Another area of discomfort may be that they were furloughed to begin with, which can leave a staffer possibly feeling less valued. How do you make a worker who is feeling uneasy to have a sense of being a key part of the team? 

“Like anything, communication is the key there,” says Dr. Sanjiv Lakhanpal, founder and CEO of the Center for Vein Restoration. “First, you’ve got to explain to them why were they furloughed. My experience has been that the best way to communicate is through honesty and transparency.” He says it may also be time to share the numbers of how many patients they used to see and what expenses typically were so they can understand the math just simply didn’t add up. 

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A major challenge is also giving staff a sense of how often you will need them. 

“As patients start coming back initially, they will be very few patients coming to any office,” Lakhanpal says. “An office that used to see 20 patients a day probably now will see 5 to 6 patients a day because as people are getting comfortable it will take time.” He warns against bringing back all the staff as it may crowd the place up. “As the patient flow increases, that’s when more staff should come in appropriate to what the requirement is for the patients’ well-being.”

Although fun office rituals such as the sought-after candy dish may be out, look for other ways to give that sense of belonging. Shared office memories and warm smiles sent that come with having worked together a long time doesn’t spread the virus-but they may just increase a feeling of team.