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Board Wisdom: the Challenge of Staffing

How do we cover vacations? How do we deal with unexpected medical or personal leaves?

Let me start out by saying I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but our clinic has had to deal with them all over the past years.

Last summer, one of our support staff had to place her husband on hospice. This summer we had another one of staff members require a seven-week medical leave. When she was able to come back, an issue came up on her first day in the office that has ended up requiring an additional sixteen weeks of time off. HELP!!!!

Situations like these require the entire staff to step it up a level. Like many small practices in Missouri we don’t have extra staff to pull from or another clinic to borrow from. It’s just us. We have had to find solutions that work with the realities of our practice, and here is what we have learned:

  1. Be Kind! We have gotten through our staffing challenges day by day with much encouragement of each other and many thank yous. Kindness towards and support of your co-workers are very important in this situation, especially in a small practice like ours. Everyone is stressed and trying as best they can to accommodate the situation; acknowledging their extra effort will go a long way towards keeping office morale up and stress levels from skyrocketing.

  2. All Hands on Deck. In these situations everyone needs to help out, from the management down through the entire staff. One example: we have had some staff clock in early to get some of the miscellaneous jobs done like ordering supplies and vaccines. Additionally, we have found that when staff sees management doing extra work they are also willing to pick up extra jobs around the office.

  3. Share the Work Load. We have taken our missing employees’ duties and assigned them to others based on daily work loads. No two days are the same, and we all share in the extra work load each day. This helps prevent burnout and reinforces that we are tackling this challenge as a team.

  4. Keep Perspective. The whole process is best worked keeping in mind that we are working hard to ensure our patients continue to receive great care and that we are doing what is in their best interests. Our patients are the reason we are in healthcare and doing whatever is needed to give them great care is what it is all about! Keeping the focus on our patients’ wellbeing helps us push through the challenging times in the right way.

  5. Before it Happens, Have a Plan. It helps to have a plan in place before you face an employee absence. Make sure more than one staff person knows where and how to order supplies for every department of your clinic, including lab, office, medical, vaccines, injectable, and DME supplies. Make sure all employees know how to do each other’s jobs. Have them write the information down so others can pick it up without much problem.

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