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How to train, retain great staff


So you have surrounded yourself with a solid team. How do you continue to coax the best of your employees’ attributes and enrich their growth as staff members? Some fellow dermatologists weigh in.

So you have surrounded yourself with a solid team. How do you continue to coax the best of your employees’ attributes and enrich their growth as staff members? Some fellow dermatologists weigh in.

A solid staff is not forged overnight. The process involves foundational practices, significant orientation, and an environment of proper mentorship and coaching. Jody Comstock, M.D., director of Skin Spectrum in Tucson, Arizona, provides detailed training manuals, employment handbooks, and job descriptions tailored to the new hire. 

“They must complete a core competency list before they work on their own,” she says. These may include a variety of learning tools and materials, from electronic medical record (EMR) online tutorials and OSHA compliance videos to core competency evaluations in phone interactions.

Carolyn Jacob, M.D., director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, utilizes experienced staff members to usher new hires into the company culture and skills. 

“We have a designated patient care team trainer who is compensated for training, and already performs her duties in a very accurate and complete manner,” she says.

Next: Cross-training new hires


Cross-training new hires

It is important for staff members, regardless of their position or primary function in the practice, to understand how the front and back office operate. The front reception area is the gateway to the practice, whether by phone or in-person conversation. Our new hires at Art of Skin MD all spend time during their orientation period at the front desk. Reciprocally, new front desk staff spends time in the back office observing all the procedures that I perform.

Vince Bertucci, M.D., director of Bertucci Medspa in Woodbridge, Ontario, employs a similar approach in training front-reception staff.

“Our new front desk office employees are first asked to review all patient information documents, then shadow staff in most parts of the clinic,” he says. “New employees observe staff for days to weeks, and develop their new role under direct supervision, increasing their independence as skills increase.”

Grooming new hires with great potential for long-term employment requires opportunities for growth and acknowledgement. To some extent “you get what you pay for,” meaning high-quality new hires often require appropriate wage compensation. The likelihood of employees to remain with you, however, increases dramatically if they are respected and can contribute. Loyalty is built when employees feel appreciated, that their opinions matter, and that their ideas may help shape the growth of the practice. 

“We thank staff members at the monthly office meetings for doing something outstanding,” Dr. Jacob says. Dr. Comstock echoes this method of recognition and reinforces exemplary work on the spot. “We try to ‘catch’ and acknowledge great work daily directly to the staff member,” says Dr. Comstock, who adds notes of these instances in personnel files.

Next: Evaluating, rewarding employees


Evaluating, rewarding employees

Some common themes emerged when dermatologists were asked about staff meetings and employee reviews. All of us conduct at least monthly staff meetings and semi-annual employee reviews. Dr. Jacob says she provides an initial six-week brief employee review to monitor progress and address any issues during the orientation period.   

These periodic meetings allow sufficient time to evaluate employee progress and performance. Staff appreciates feedback. Predictable intervals between performance evaluations allow sufficient time to identify deficiencies and applaud work well done.

Opinions vary on how to reward staff for hard work. Performance-based annual bonuses, merit-based annual wage increases, gift cards, individual recognition, or holiday parties are just some of the ways you may consider compensating staff. The key is for staff to value the compensation, rather than it becoming an expectation. 

Rewards for employees may be less predictable. Offering opportunities for continuing medical education, creating in-office retreats, or providing out-of-office team building activities are a few “out of the box” means of showing staff that you care about them.

Dr. Comstock offered a day of “TED talk”-style presentations for her staff that included motivational speakers and talks themed around beauty. I have found success in rewarding staff with off-campus bonding events for hitting performance measures or sales goals for our practice. Recent excursions have included a brunch and spa getaway, a dinner at the local firehouse with a ride on the fire truck, and opening day at the Del Mar Raceway.

At the end of the day, employees really want to feel valued. Dr. Bertucci perhaps states it best: “I think that treating staff with respect is key to retaining them.” Remember to give them appropriate recognition, thank them for a job well done, and recognize they can make your day exponentially easier, so encourage them to do so.  

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