In today’s world, staffing and human resource issues are at an all-time level of, well, WEIRD. Yes, that IS my technical term for it.
As an international medical practice management consulting firm, our company, Shorr Solutions helps clients across the United States and Canada. We’re seeing the trends of the employment market, both with independent contractors and internal employees, take some pretty interesting turns over the past three years.
Today’s market is proving a new crop of reasons for staffing shortages, including, but not limited to:
- Layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in 2020 caused disloyalty to employers when employees felt their employers with disloyal to them.
- There is an increase in mental health struggles.
- Quiet quitting, where team members are feeling such incredible burnout they’re just simply working less, is not only raging through companies but becoming the norm on social media memes.
- Team members are requesting a larger income, bonus, or commission structure than the business owners or management are willing to or able to pay.
- New employees or independent contractors are seeking change in positions, industry, or geographic location… and then quickly realize the grass wasn’t greener on the other side.
- Theft has increased in workplaces, causing additional unplanned layoffs.
- … and much more!
All that being said, we’re seeing an increase in staff shortages in nearly every geographic market we work with, causing medical practices to have to do more with less.
What to do during a staffing shortage
While we know your practice needs to beef up its staffing, how can you get by in the meantime? Let’s dive in!
First, use technology to help the team you DO have do more with less (people, that is):
- Calls may be missed when you’re short-staffed; use automated text messages to help alter the form of communication to get the job done. This helps a phone call turn into a text message chat that a team member can instantly answer, even while multitasking. Bonus points if your practice implements an auto responder text message for missed calls that include a link to your online schedule so a patient can schedule their own appointment instead of waiting for a callback. Phone tag, after all, is never, ever fun.
- Allowing for contactless payments when patients are in the office makes the process easier. Chasing down outstanding or overdue payments from patients of insurance-based practices is harder with fewer team members.
- Use pop-up call profiles in Weave’s phone software to make your existing team’s jobs easier. For example, when your current patients call in for one question, this allows you to easily confirm their upcoming appointment AND discuss outstanding payments.
Next, be sure to incentivize the great people you DO have:
- While we always recommend recording patient phone calls for quality assurance in your practice, make sure you’re listening to those calls. Use this opportunity to not only train your existing team but to reward them for their jobs well done. Implement certain KPIs to correspond with those rewards: include the number of times they stayed calm and redirected the anger of an upset patient, converting a certain amount of phone calls to appointments, staying under a certain number of missed phone calls, etc.
- Be sure to honor paid time off requests as much as possible to give your dedicated team members time to recharge. Remember that even though you’re short-staffed, that doesn’t mean your existing team members won’t get burned out. After all, they’ve earned that time and will be stronger to weather the storm if they come back refreshed.
- Ask your team members what’s important to them before TELLING them what the incentives will be. While some may want a bonus for reaching a certain amount of skincare sales, others may want additional paid time off, their lunches paid for once a week, additional access to treatments in your practices or something you’ve yet to think of. Ask THEM before putting things into place.
Finally, don’t stop looking for your next rockstar!
- Review your call load ahead of posting for the position you need. Use your phone software to look at peak call times and determine when you need more coverage on the phones. For example, if you have a large amount of missed calls during 11 a.m. -1 p.m., a.k.a. lunch hour, then it may be worth hiring part-time coverage during those hours if you’re having issues finding someone qualified who wants full-time hours. If you notice that the number of phone calls drops for several hours during the day, have a game plan ahead of time of which tasks you want that new team member to cover. Should they be picking up your reception area? Wiping down counters? Performing inventory checks? Calling back overdue patients with outbound calls? Knowing this NOW helps you provide a more solid job description, ask stronger interview questions that will pertain to the tasks you’ll have that person performing, and provide clear expectations on both sides.
- Create a clear job description including your “nice to haves” and your “must haves” when it comes to the details. If you’re willing to have someone part-time to transition to full-time later, state that. If you must have someone with three years of experience, state that as well. If you DO have the ability to increase the base salary, in today’s job market, I highly encourage you to consider it. (Of course, run the numbers in your practice first!) If your practice is too small to offer a company health insurance plan, consider providing an individual stipend. Get creative.
- Don’t settle. Think of it like any other relationship you’ve ever been in – settling for less than what meets your standards never ends up well – in marriage, in friendship, or in business. If they show up late for an interview, don’t respond to your communication, or have a poor reputation around town, the red flags are waving.
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1 in 5 healthcare workers have left a position since 2020
Weave surveyed over 510 medical professionals in February 2022 to understand the impact of labor and staffing shortages on small healthcare practicesRead Ebook