To better retain its physicians, Great River Health Systems (GRHS) three years ago decided to revamp its relatively standard physician onboarding process—replacing a half-day program of paperwork with an immersive two-and-a-half day introduction to the system, Debra Beaulieu writes for Health Leaders Media.
According to Melissa Jones, the integration coordinator at GRHS, the system previously onboarded physicians with a half-day program—during which they completed mandatory accrediting documents and similar materials—before scheduling them to begin meeting patients the same afternoon.
But the system "learned that while that approach is a satisfier to the employer, ... it was [not] a satisfier to the provider to be 'thrown into the sharks,'" Jones said. And a satisfying onboarding process is key, Beaulieu writes, because it provides "a one-time opportunity to establish rapport" between a physician, the hospital, and the community—increasing the likelihood of retaining new hires and staving off the cost of high turnover.
GRHS now runs a two-and-a-half day orientation program for all providers, including advanced practitioners, that's earned the system praise from participants. Here are the system's four key strategies for improving the process:
- Connect early and often. It's best to engage with potential physicians early, and so Jones will meet with potential hires during the interview process to set a good first impression. "That way, if they do come on board and sign a contract, we've already put a face with the name and gotten to know each other a bit," Jones said. "It's very brief but engagement really starts at that point in the process." And Jones stays in touch with new hires and their families, which is key when fostering relationships with people who sometimes do not start work until up to one year after signing their contract.
- 'Humanize' candidates and their families. According to Jones, the integration team will work to learn about a new hire's personal interests outside of work during a series of informal meetings, then introduce the new hire to like-minded staff members and family members. The strategy helps the system establish connections and activities for a new hire that could stave off the sort of dissatisfaction that causes providers to leave their jobs, Jones said.
- Expose newcomers to all departments. Not only does GRHS attempt to make a newcomer feel welcome and find their place in a company of around 25,000 people, but they believe in orienting their new hires to their health system as a whole. "Before, if you were going to be working in department X, we would typically only expose you to department X," said Jones. "However, we want to do our best to keep referrals and our business within our own walls as often as possible, and we were learning that our providers for the most part were only familiar with the areas in which they were working." In an effort to address this, new hires are shown around the entire system exposing them to all the departments so they become familiar with the overall health system.
- Check in and follow up. As a final early relationship-building practice, Jones recommends following up with new physicians within six months to a year of them starting practice. Jones said, "It can be as simple as taking the provider out to lunch and asking the provider, 'How's it going? What can we do to make your life better? What's working? What's not working?'" "Just having those informal conversations helps us learn what we're doing well and develop what we can do better," Jones said (Beaulieu, Health Leaders Media, 6/1).
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