The provider you have been courting has signed the contract!! Woo-hoo! Although it’s tempting to close the proverbial book and move on to the next search, don’t move too fast! You still have an important role to play in the physician’s onboarding process. The onboarding process strongly solidifies the commitment to join your organization and willingness to stay long-term.
Whether you realize it, the onboarding process began with your first call. You are their first connection and first impression to your organization. You set the tone this new provider has with your organization. You shared their CV and interests with your stakeholders. Now it’s time to foster their positive first impression with effective onboarding. Onboarding includes familiarizing a provider with your organization’s mission, policies, protocols, culture and stakeholders. The goal is to integrate a new hire (and their family if applicable) into both the organization and the community.
Proper and proactive onboarding starts with knowing why the provider chose to leave their former practice and tackling these topics from the start. Common reasons for departure include unmet expectations, poor cultural fit, poor communication with management, minimal input into decision-making and financial issues with the practice, and lack of appreciation or recognition. Each of these reasons can be mitigated during the recruitment and onboarding processes if considered upfront.
As a recruiter, it is up to you only to provide an accurate job description, but also to discover a candidate’s preferences and goals and determine whether they actually align with your organization. If they do, and you move forward with hiring the candidate, it becomes your responsibility to communicate their needs and expectations to all involved in the onboarding process. This includes introducing the provider to staff responsible for logistical items like credentialing, licensing, clinical operations and scheduling. In addition, it’s important to introduce the new provider to an organizational member tasked with welcoming the provider to the community, like managers, C-suite leaders and mentors. The goal is to prevent the rude awakening of a reality that doesn’t line up with expectations.
Poor cultural fit
The first day is so stressful for anyone. Help your new provider by introducing connections soon after a "yes" is received. Assigning a mentor/buddy can help make the transition easier. Build on those early interview introductions to help make the first day more comfortable for all. Welcome them with a big sign, freshly painted office, monogrammed white coats, and a first day lunch or welcome event. It’s also very important not to forget the family. Make a point to have the family tour the clinic where the provider will be working and meet the team. Try to connect them with other provider families with similar interests and local organizations. Do periodic check-ins with your provider and their family to see how everyone is settling into the new community.
Poor communication with management
It’s important for a new provider to meet the organizational leaders and understand their areas of responsibility. Facilitate feedback by arranging appointments with various leaders over the provider in the first few months. This should be done early in their orientation period.
Minimal input in decision making
Providers who are more engaged within an organization are more likely to stay. Nurture your new provider’s interests by introducing opportunities where their skills can shine. This is the time to share and emphasize how your new provider is part of your organization’s future plans.
Lack of appreciation or recognition
Don’t let the recognition or appreciation fade after the first day. Easy things like sending an email card on their work anniversary or birthday or scheduling regular check-ins are powerful retention tools. Gather feedback on their onboarding experience. Receiving feedback will help make your program even better for the next new hire. And if you do incorporate a new idea because of their suggestion, acknowledge their input as it may allow them to feel comfortable making additional suggestions on other projects in the future.
Extend onboarding into learning and development. Introduce leadership opportunities or enhance skill sets. The investment in time will pay off. Especially now, with stress and burnout at all-time highs, incorporating a few of these suggestions will help you foster retention of your new hires and their families so they can have a long tenure in your organization and community.
Donna Ecclestone, CPRP, is the Director of Provider Integration at the Private Diagnostic Clinic at Duke Health. Her department, which is responsible for the onboarding and offboarding initiatives for clinical faculty and APPs across Duke’s faculty group practice, was recognized by Joint Commission as a Best Practice model in 2016. She is a former Board Member of the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR) and is their education committee chair.