Medical Practice Hiring Headaches -- and How to Avoid Them

January 17, 2011
Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

A reader recently reached out to me for help in finding quality, on-site managerial help, after dealing with a couple of duds. Hiring the right people for your medical practice or physician business is critical to success, and also one of the most difficult things to do. Here are nine tips for getting your hiring right.

Hiring the right people for your medical practice or physician business is critical to success, and also one of the most difficult things to do.

I recently received this email (slightly edited):

"this busy, harried soloist needs a little bit of onsite managerial help -- certainly more than a virtual office manager can supply. where can one find it? i haven't been able to locate independent practice managers/management consultants in the 3 years i've been looking (well, except for one flake, and another who made it clear she looks for true 'consulting' projects that are short-lived)"

Sound all too familiar?

The email prompted my reply with these tips for getting your hiring right:

1. As you go through your day, keep a notepad with you and list the various tasks and problems you bump into that you, as your business’s most-expensive employee, need not and should not be doing.

2. Pay particular attention to those SOPs (standard operating procedures) that could be written out in detail, filed into a SOP Manual -- a "this is how I want my practice to run" kind of thing -- and then taught to your new employee. Often, you're better off hiring for great attitude, innate intelligence and willingness to learn than actual skill, unless the position is highly technical or has licensing requirements.

3. At the end of a couple of weeks or a month, look at this list and begin to sort it into a Job Description with clearly assigned tasks and expectations

4. Ask around to find out what the going hourly, weekly or monthly rate is for a competent part-time (or full-time) office manager (or whatever your employee description is).

5. Develop and document your own hiring process (that in and of itself becomes an SOP).

6. Post your very clear job description on local jobs boards, Craigslist and any other place that would be appropriate for a local hire, and in the job description post, give the person a very specific tasks to do. For example, instruct the applicants to call the office between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and ask for your office assistant by name. If anyone calls who is unable to follow these simple instructions (whatever you them to be), dump them as candidates! The person you are hiring needs to be able to follow explicit directions and pay attention to detail.

7. Be thorough in your hiring process and don't skip any steps -- make sure you've got some good hiring questions that truly highlight the skills, attitude and intelligence are looking for.

8. Be willing to interview at least four or five candidates, unless you know you've nailed it on the head the first time round. And don't forget to check references.

9. Be sure to follow your state’s legally-required hiring practices, such as not asking deeply personal questions, etc. (You can typically find this information on your state Department of Labor website.)

Happy hiring!