Surgery manager Sara Roberts advises on how to successfully integrate new staff in clinic
Having the right team in place is vital to the successful running of any clinic. Whether clinical or not, every member of the team needs to be fulfilling a specific role to the highest standard in order to allow your clinic to perform at its best. However, finding the ideal person for each role and teaching them the ways of your practice can often be challenging. As a registered nurse and surgery manager at the Farjo Hair Institute, I have recruited and trained many employees. I’ve learnt, from my own role, that it’s important to take responsibility for both clinical staff and non-clinical team members. Ensuring staff fit in with your clinic’s ethos is hugely important, so it’s crucial you recruit the right person and nurture them into your working environment.
When recruiting, although the candidate’s experience is obviously important, it’s also crucial to consider the individual’s personal attributes and their alignment with your clinic’s values. Recruiting someone on experience alone may restrict you and your clinic, and create a barrier to finding the perfect candidate.
We know that good communication, particularly from clinical staff during patient consultation for example, can be key in reducing a patient’s anxiety.1 While that’s just one of the skills to look for in a new team member; a warm, personable manner and the ability to keep patients calm and relaxed should always be required in staff. To find out if a candidate has these qualities, I advise to ask them not only competency-based questions during their interview, mentioned in further detail below, but also questions about them as a person, for example, ‘Can you tell us a bit about yourself?’ We want our patients to feel at ease and well-cared for during every aspect of their treatment – and each member of staff has a part to play in aiding this.
A good way of getting to know the candidate is by showing them around the building and having an informal chat, to get a feel for how they behave in a non-formal scenario
I advise to post the job advertisement online, both directly on your website and on external job sites such as Indeed and CV Library, or on sites which specialise in aesthetics, such as the Aesthetics journal and Aesthetic Professionals. It’s important to be specific in the job description and express what qualities you are looking for in a candidate, so they understand exactly what sort of person you are looking for. In my clinic, our recruitment process is thorough, involving interviews with me and around two to three other clinical members of staff, a tour of the clinic, and a variety of competency-based questions. Examples of these include, ‘Provide an example of how you have successfully handled a difficult situation’ or ‘How do you ensure patients are calm and assured?’ A good way of getting to know the candidate is by showing them around the building and having an informal chat, to get a feel for how they behave in a non-formal scenario.
Ask for direct examples of their personal experiences and be clear about what you will expect of them and when milestones should be reached. We’re open and upfront about the way we run the practice and what we will expect of the candidate, if they are successful. This approach has worked well for us – the successful candidate enters the practice fully prepared for the role they need to do, and is receptive to our direction and way of working. Putting the time and effort into recruiting properly will pay dividends for any clinic when it comes to introducing new staff, because it is much easier to integrate a person who’s the right fit for the role.
As it’s so important that any staff transition results in a seamless experience for your patients; it’s vital that new starters are properly briefed on your clinic’s processes. I recommend preparing an induction programme to guide new staff through their probationary period, which for my clinic usually lasts three months, outlining key deliverables with achievable dates, so they know exactly what is required of them.
A thorough induction needs to go further than simply covering the usual policies and procedures of hygiene, health and safety, company statements, etc. To enable the new starter to have a clear idea of what is expected of them, I advise to include the following in their induction:
I recommend supplying each staff member with a workbook and an evidence-of-training document. Giving them autonomy over their own development, as well as personal responsibility to ensure training is being done, allows staff the freedom to take some control over their future. We deliver our own training initially, working closely with all new clinical staff, to teach techniques for medical procedures as well as customer-focused training and statutory requirements such as lifting and handling.
Giving new starters control over their own development and progression creates an empowered and proactive workforce which drives the clinic forward
In my clinic, we train new staff in clinical techniques and provide improvement targets; detailing precisely what constitutes failing to meet expectations, meeting expectations and exceeding expectations across a range of areas, including communication, health and safety, and technical skills. These skills must be met before we will allow them to work unsupervised. Depending on their previous experience, new starters are generally supervised for six to 12 months in our clinic.
If the new starter has their own preferred techniques they have learnt elsewhere, that is generally accepted in my clinic, so long as the quality mirrors ours. That noted however, we do prefer to keep things uniform by having clinical staff using similar techniques.
Overall, the key elements any clinic needs to consider are the quality of the induction, the frequency of training, and deciding at what stage a new starter is allowed to be more hands-on with patients. It’s a good idea to assign an existing member of staff as a mentor – a practitioner or a clinic manager for example – to oversee every new starter’s progression.
Hair transplant surgery requires a number of team members, therefore patients at our clinic will see a number of different members of staff during their treatment, so transferring patients from one staff member to another is generally not a great concern. It is still something to be mindful of however, especially in an aesthetic clinic where patients may not be transferred to different practitioners often. All staff, including front-of-house, are encouraged to introduce themselves fully the first time the patient comes in for a treatment, and they are identifiable by their name badge.
In my experience, honesty is the best policy when it comes to introducing new staff to patients. We are open about new starters and will proactively tell patients when we have changes in the team. However, it’s important to be respectful of your patient’s journey. If you have performed your internal training well, then patients should not notice a difference in the quality of, or approach to care. New starters should slot into your existing clinical structure seamlessly.
One way of helping patients feel more secure under the care of a new team member is to invest in the new starter’s public profile. We work with our marketing team to create public awareness about new team members, which could include anything from blogs or website stories, to news articles and press profiles. I recommend sending a press release to industry publications and local newspapers about your clinic’s new addition, including a background of the new employer, as well as a comment about the clinic, stating the reason for its growth. This can help patients feel reassured by the quality of the team handling their treatment and can also boost the confidence of the new staff member.
It’s important to create a welcoming atmosphere and make new starters feel at ease. I personally greet and guide every new starter through communication and support during their first days and weeks to ensure they feel looked after and a part of the clinic. I suggest also running a mentoring system alongside a training programme, to offer all staff, not just new starters, a dedicated person who they can speak to about any issues or concerns at work, as well as their own professional development.
Regular social events can be highly beneficial to strengthen staff relationships within the clinic, in a refreshing, non-clinical setting. Going out for drinks, dinner or holding a movie/games night, for example, can help foster a sense of belonging in a fun, stress-free environment. This helps staff to have a good rapport and relationship with each other – which, in turn, creates a friendly, welcoming atmosphere in-clinic and positively impacts upon patient experience.
Giving new starters control over their own development and progression creates an empowered and proactive workforce which drives the clinic forward. Remember to prioritise regular communication and one-to-ones with every team member, and encourage them to attend external workshops and training to further their development. In my clinic, one-to-ones are less formal than reviews and are more of a quick chat to ensure everything is okay and see if they need any additional support.
The most important thing for any clinic to consider at all times is patient experience. Creating positive patient experience is mostly down to the team you have in place; finding, training and retaining the right staff is of utmost importance.
Focus on recruitment first. Put thought into exactly what kind of person you are trying to find and then craft interview questions which will reflect this. Ensure you ask for direct examples of their personal experience and be clear about what you will expect of them and when milestones should be reached. By doing this, you’re more likely to recruit the right person for the role – which, in turn, makes introducing them to your clinic and patients much easier.
1. Michael John Pritchard, Reducing Anxiety in Elective Surgical Patients (London: Nursing Times, 2011) [https://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/perioperative-care/reducing-anxiety-in-elective-surgicalpatients/5024376.article]