When Your Medical Practice Workload is Too Great, Delegate

June 1, 2013
P.J. Cloud-Moulds

When you are on your way to burning out, and if you can't add a new hire to your medical practice, at least learn to delegate.

Friday. The end of the week. Finally.

What a week it's been, too. Your phone wouldn't stop ringing with patient questions, payroll was this week and you added a new employee. Plus, with the end of the month nearing, all of the utility bills were due, you're in the middle of recertification with two insurance companies, and you are seeing the bulk of the patients! I have one word for you: delegate. I know, it's not your preference, but it's clear it has become necessary.

I have a friend who has owned his own company for several years, and he gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me for some time. "Always be interviewing," he says. I disagreed the first time I heard that, and the next week a key employee gave notice and moved out of state. Now what?! You have to stop everything and scramble to get a replacement in, trained, and up to speed in two weeks or sometimes less, all the while hoping you did not rush you decision and hire the wrong person out of haste.

Regardless of the relationships you feel you have with your employees, one never knows what is really going on in their lives once they walk out your office door in the evening. Perhaps their spouse has been relocated and they have to move, perhaps a family member needs help and they need to quit their job to take care of them. There are dozens of reasons why an employee may leave unexpectedly.

If you keep your ear to ground and hear that someone is looking for a job, take a few moments and talk to them. It doesn't have to be an hour interview, just a quick phone call and "please e-mail me your resume." This way you are lined up with great options when you need them.

In the case that you are so overwhelmed as mentioned above, why not pull one of those resumes out and meet the person? You may really need a physician assistant or nurse practitioner to help with the patient load. You may find you need a part-time bookkeeper who can manage the books and take care of payroll. Perhaps you need to promote a front- or back-office person to run the day-to-day operations like insurance recertification. Your options are pretty vast, and the sooner you consider delegating some of the workload, the sooner you get to have some breathing room.

If it's not in the budget to hire someone, just take a look around your current staff. Can someone pick up some of the workload from you? Have you asked anyone?  Sometimes holding back and not delegating out can be more detrimental to your practice. It will result in you wearing too many hats and nothing ever truly coming to fruition. That can wear you down more than the workload itself; just the thought that everything is not being accomplished to your level of excellence. Give someone a try. See if they can take one of your hats. You'll be glad you did!

A key reason for delegating, cross-training, and always be interviewing, is simple: You need a day off; or five days off. Would the practice collapse if you were not there? If the answer is yes, then you need to get on this delegating concept today! Worst case scenario: You get hurt or sick, you cannot come into the office. Would it run smoothly in your absence? Does everyone have the autonomy to make decisions and answer questions as they come? This is a great way to help develop your staff and their skill sets. Give your staff the "OK"' to call you out if you are not delegating something that needs to be. This is very important to create that kind of a working relationship.

Overall, a healthy practice can thrive with a few people who know all of the positions in the company. Anyone can step in when someone is out sick or on vacation. A majority of your job should be spent managing the big picture and let your talented staff handle the details.