Implement a thriving staff development program without doling out the big bucks

Cells are the building blocks of life; bricks, stones and wood are the building blocks of houses; and employees are the building blocks of successful organizations.

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Unfortunately for the latter truth, most physician practices and other healthcare facilities aren’t engaging the proper resources or training initiatives necessary to steady worker foundations, and as a result, their businesses are sagging.

How does a practice right its roof and cement a thriving team atmosphere? According to MGMA session speaker Richard Crici, Ed.D, MHA, CMPE Chief Executive Officer, RJ Crici Consulting Inc, Jacksonville, Fla., it requires time, innovation and a little advice from Mr. Miyagi.

“A lot of my experience is born from my training as a martial arts student,” Crici said, adding another experience facet to an already extensive list (inclusive of dermatology, plastic surgery, teaching and consulting.) “One of the things my teacher taught me, that he teaches constantly, is the concept of sho-shin, which translates to the ‘beginner’s mind’. So the concept is, that when you go into something thinking you know it all, it’s impossible to learn.”

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From the grace and discipline of oriental sparring culture, Crici recommends practice managers learn to leave their personal biases at the door, and try methods — some previously attempted, others completely newfangled — with a more positive personal flair.

“Adults come with preconceived notions based on our experiences. We all have different experiences, so we all bring different biases to the table. We say ‘hey this works for me, it’s been working for five years’ and somebody else can say ‘that doesn’t work for me’, you’re just doing it differently, you have different experiences. But the problems are the same.”

Thus, while experience is definitely not something to scoff at, it does on occasion get in the way; once set momentarily on the back-burner, an organization’s ability to adapt and apply an efficient staff and professional development program is inevitable, Crici said.

“Employee retention, staff morale, practice efficiency — all of these things are improved as a result of staff development and training,” Crici said.

“There have got to be underlying themes to make it better. There have got to be some underlying themes that will make a staff development and training program successful,” he added. 

Those themes were listed by Crici as follows:

1.) Understand the Significance of a staff and professional development program. This requires physician and OM or administrative by-in, Crici noted. To do this, a practice manager must convince such contributors that professional development allows for increased profit.

For example: “I post [employment] ads for people all the time and it is not unusual to get from 400-700 responses,” Crici said. “That is time consuming, which is expensive to your organization because you are some of the more highly compensated people. When we talk about again, receptionists, billers, medical assistants, nurses, even doctors — you’re hiring all those people so to spend your time reading through all those resumes is time consuming and cost your organization a lot of money. And it’s demoralizing to the team when you have a huge turnover rate. People wonder ‘why are they not staying? What is so bad is so bad about this organization?’ And you find that this is a snowball effect, it’s very difficult to stop that bleeding.”

2.) Assess current knowledge base. Crici recommended practice managers pose these staffing questions:

  • Where do they Excel?
  • Where are deficiencies?
  • Do you know where to look?
  • Do you take advantage of the current opportunities?
  • Do you share these opportunities with your staff?

3.) Identify potential areas of interest. Query your staff regarding what they wish to learn, their needs and desires, and their differences of interest.

4.) Identify training programs. “Find opportunities for your team to learn, grow and excel: Are there any local seminars, conferences or opportunities to learn more and grow? Which resources are available?”

5.) Staff Accountability. For this, “if you cannot measure it, don’t do it!,” Crici said. Additionally, practice managers should:

  • Hold everyone accountable for their own growth
  • List objectives on their performance review
  • Help them attain their objectives
  • Have them report back to the group once they complete a session or learning objective within a program

“A company’s most valuable asset is what? It’s employees; it’s people. My next question to you is, prove it. What does your organization do to really demonstrate that mantra?” Crici challenged.

By incorporating the above steps, Crici said, a practice can live up to that challenge and more.

Crici’s session “Improving Profitability by Improving Professional & Staff Development,” was included as a general session during the 2012 MGMA annual conference held in San Antonio, Texas.  [See also: Fraud, medical liability issues demand practices show and do as EHR dictates]