Turn Physician, Administrator Vacations into Staff Learning Opportunities

September 7, 2013

When practice leadership vacations, it can be hard on operations. Here's how to prepare your staff and remedy problems quickly.

I just came back to my office after two separate vacations (with a week back in between) and was I ever surprised at what I came back to! Shockingly enough, my time away from the office did not have as negative an effect as I thought it might, but there were also areas I expected to hold up much better that didn't.

What does this mean? You can look at this in several different ways. My first inner reaction was disappointment that the staff did not hold up better. But, after reflecting on where the breakdowns actually occurred, I realized there were just a few areas of training that needed tweaking. And, when I changed my perspective on the actual issues that occurred in my absence, and when I recognized that my staff members are professionals who only want to do it right, I realized that mentoring and leading were all that were needed.

How can you tell the difference between “kids running with scissors” while you're out, and your professional staff needing some simple guidance and perhaps more autonomy? The first thing you need to remember is that your staff does not know everything you know. They have not learned the exact same things the exact same ways, and their experiences are very different from yours. I have to remind myself of this on a daily basis.

Once you identify where there was a breakdown, really look at the cause. Was it due to laziness? Does the staff typically do this area of the job correctly in your presence? If the answer is yes, then you can address this issue directly with the poor performers. If this answer is no, then identify where the issue occurred and ask your trusted staff if there was some sort of breakdown in communication, or if they did not feel they had the authority or autonomy to resolve issues in your absence.

Sometimes it comes down to confidence (or lack thereof) from staff who do not usually have to perform a certain task. Was the direction clear enough? Is there a written policy for the task being performed? Again, remember that without this guidance, staff may not perform up to your standards or perform the task the same way you would.

Preparing your staff for an absence should start one to two weeks prior to your actual departure. This way, you can observe how tasks are completed, and if they are completed correctly and to your standards. Preparing in advance also provides your staff the opportunity to ask questions and seek necessary feedback on their performance.

By planning ahead, communicating expectations, providing written policy, and listening to your staff you can go on vacation and not come back to complete chaos! Sure, there will be some areas that lack, but think of those as gems and utilize those areas for targeted training. You can only improve, and your staff will thank you for trusting them, and providing great feedback.