people wearing medical lab coats working

Finding and Retaining the Right Employees


“A doctor is only as good as his staff.” This is a common statement made in the healthcare industry that certainly holds true for many medical practices. Medical staff members are often the first and last impression from an office, and they can make or break the overall patient experience. They are a reflection of the doctor and an expression of the practice, its values, and philosophy. Therefore, it should be a top priority to find and retain the very best talent.

Finding the right employees

Finding the right employees can be a challenge in any industry. In the US, businesses lose $11 billion annually due to employee turnover. According to studies, the cost of replacing an employee can cost anywhere from 20-100% of the total salary. Considering the costs, hiring carefully to find the right employees and keep them is worth the investment.

1.) Personality and Attitude- Hire positive people. Attitude should trump experience in almost every situation. While experience is always a plus, if a candidate understands the value of customer service and is willing to learn, a practice can teach most office related tasks. It is also important to find an individual that can work well with others, is flexible, and who can fit within your office culture. Medical practices are face-paced work environments, often with long hours, and limited staff so it is imperative to find personalities that can work well together to provide the best patient experience and keep the office running smoothly.

2.) Customer service- All medical staff should possess a strong understanding for excellent customer service. To gain an understanding of the individual, ask the candidate how they would handle an angry patient who has waited passed their scheduled appointment time. Employers should also ask candidates how they would greet a patient who is checking in for their appointment, or how they would respond to a patient on the phone who is upset they had not received a returned call.

3.) Work Ethic- Office related tasks such as using the phones, data entry, coding or billing can be taught to those who are willing to learn. However, the willingness to learn and a strong work ethic are traits that are highly valuable and difficult teach. Seek individuals who can express they would go above and beyond for the job. Ask candidates to give an example of how they handled a difficult situation at their last job, or how they collaborated with their co-workers to get a project done.

4.) Flexibility- There may be times when an employer may need a staff member to work longer hours or perform duties outside of their job responsibilities. Ask a candidate if they would be willing to take on additional hours, tasks, or responsibilities if necessary. It is important know if a person can adapt to different situations.

5.) Experience – Last but not least, is experience. Experience is a plus but it is not first on the priority list. Most practices train employees on their way of doing things, regardless of a potential candidate’s experience level. Finding an employee with a positive attitude, great sense of humor, and a strong work ethic far outweighs years of experience answering phones in a medical office.

When interviewing candidates, an interviewer can learn more about an individual when asking open-ended questions such as:

  • Why did you choose a career in healthcare and what would you like to achieve or accomplish?
  • What is a challenge you had in the workplace and how did you overcome it?
  • Would you be willing to continue your education while working?
  • How would you handle an angry patient?
  • What is the most important thing you can do when a patient approaches the front desk to check in for their appointment?

Retaining great employees:

Once a practice has an excellent medical staff, retaining them is yet another challenge. According to an article in Forbes, the average raise an employee can expect is around 3 percent, but if an employee leaves a company they will likely receive a 10-20 percent increase in salary. So how can a small medical practice retain their most valuable asset?

1.) Employee engagement- is one of the most important factors in retaining employees. Encourage open discussion by asking staff questions about process improvement in their area of specialty. Create an environment of collaboration and mutual respect for opinions. Incentivize staff members with rewards for meeting goals. By allowing your workforce to take part in accomplishments through rewards and recognition will develop an environment of trust, pride, and commitment.

2.) Personal Goals and Development- Highly driven employees need to feel their personal goals and development are being acknowledged by the company. Employees who take initiative should be recognized and encouraged to take on more responsibility. Create a career path based on their goals with a specific plan to monitor progress. The key to an engaged workforce is recognizing each individual’s talents and helping them succeed in achieving their goals.

3) Work Schedule Flexibility – Although not all employers are able to offer a flexible work schedule, in many situations it can be achieved through strategic scheduling. By allowing a staff member to work through lunch or come in early so they may leave by 4 p.m. to accommodate their family or school schedule, it shows an employer is empathetic and cares about their well-being. By giving employees just a little flexibility, an employer can easily respect and loyalty from their staff.

4) Fair and Competitive Compensation – While not all employers can easily accommodate, this is an important factor in finding and retaining the best employees. Offer more than an annual cost of living adjustment to your more productive employees. Most often if you pay them more than they are worth they will rise to a higher level, pay them less, and they will give you just that.

5) Benefits Package- According to the Harvard Business Review, 60 percent of employees polled said an attractive benefits package is very important vs. 38 percent who said a high base salary is very important. Employee benefits are an effective tool for attracting and retaining the best workers. They also play an essential role in employee satisfaction.

Hiring and retaining the best employees while providing patients with a great experience is not an easy task. There is significant time, effort, and investment involved. However, both patients and referring physicians will take notice and for a medical practice there are few things that can provide such a high return.

Business - Medical and Dental Industry

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.