Tackling Pediatric Staffing Challenges

The job market of 2021 is unlike anything that has been seen for decades. In healthcare specifically, the national impact of an employee shortage is being felt as employees get job offers from large health systems that pull them out of private practice and local communities.

After spending the last 18 months of the pandemic innovating new ways to keep staff engaged, excited for your patients, and most importantly employed, many of us are now finding ourselves stuck with termination notices from our staff.

It can be frustrating trying to tackle the challenge of staffing your practice, especially if this is not an area where you have much experience. For that reason, I want to share some of my best guidance for handling staffing with ease. 

Understanding the Importance of Staffing a Pediatric Practice

Staffing is such an important part of your pediatric practice. Everyone from your front desk staff to your nurse-practitioners is a representative of your practice. Every word that they say and action that they take should be geared towards helping your patients succeed.

The ideal staff members aren’t just diligent workers – they should also have the interpersonal skills necessary to put patients and their families at ease. I’ve hired some great people in the past, but the ones who ensure that patients and their families return over and over again are always able to put people at ease and make them feel supported and understood.  

The Best Way to Build Your Team

Building a great pediatric support team is a long process. It doesn’t happen overnight. The best way to ensure that you’re building a great team is to ensure that your hiring process reflects your values.

Here are some tips on how to achieve that.

1. Write a clear and thoughtful job description

This is what will draw people to the position, so make sure you include all relevant job responsibilities and expectations.

2. Discuss your goals for the position in all interviews

Being able to articulate your goals for the position during the hiring process will weed out people who will not be a good fit.

3. Carefully screen for interpersonal skills

Hiring someone with the right mixture of interpersonal skills and knowledge is key to ensuring a good fit in your practice. You can teach many aspects of a job, but great interpersonal skills are an innate quality that many people just don’t have.  

4. Don’t be afraid to use social media or word-of-mouth

Sure, traditional hiring sites like Indeed or Monster are great for finding a large number of candidates, but don’t dismiss social media or word-of-mouth. Posting your job on social media or telling friends and colleagues about the opening could help you find someone who is great for the position and is already embedded in the community.

What Happens When Staff Aren’t Meeting Expectations?

Hiring the right staff is important, but letting people go should be thought of with equal care and attention. If you have a member of staff who isn’t contributing to the success of the practice or is even detracting from it, it may be time to let them go. Ongoing staffing issues can be demoralizing to your team and may even cause your patients to go elsewhere.

If there are recurring issues with a staff member, make sure to document them well. Additionally, you may be able to put a corrective plan into place and improve skills or behavior that way. However, if this process does not result in any improvement, the staff member should be terminated.

Your staff are key to the success of your pediatric practice. By building a team that can meet the needs of your patients, you’re setting yourself up for many years of diligent and rewarding work together.

Jeffrey Cooper, MD, FAAP

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