HR for surgeons

HR for surgeons: tips and tricks

You may never have thought about your HR division, as a surgeon in private practice. We can just call it ‘building a great team’. Or ‘finding the right people’, if you prefer. In this article, we discuss a secret tool used by many specialist doctors and surgeons to build better teams. 

HR for surgeons

HR for surgeons: tips and tricks

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

October 10, 2022

The best way to make a good first impression

finding staff

Many doctors tell me about their struggle to find and retain good team members. Terms like ‘employer branding’ and ‘recruitment marketing’ have become more popular. 

A great place to start is where all job-seeking receptionists, practice managers, allied health professionals, nurses, midwives, psychologists, or general support workers would start: online.

Tip #1: Dive into the fluffy stuff

inspired team members

Depending on where you are and how your team works, these are the challenges:

  • General shortages in qualified professionals,
  • Job-hopping, which makes it important to recruit even better than before.

Inspired team members can make a massive difference to your private practice as a surgeon, a specialist doctor, a psychologist, a dentist, a podiatrist or a chiropractor, a psychiatrist or a general practitioner.

These team members are often responsible for the overall perception a patient has when they visit your practice. Their efforts, friendliness, customer service skills and energy will be reflected in the online reviews you get as a doctor.

If you want inspired team members, chances are you will have to take a step back from the typical transactional view we sometimes have on what it means to get a job or in your situation, to hire someone.

If you just inspect the words, you can feel how things can go wrong. Sometimes people just get that job as they prepare for something more important in life. Sometimes you hire someone just because you need the position filled.

To get inspired team members, you may have to dive headfirst into the fluffy stuff. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take your team to a meditation workshop.

You will get inspired team members if you include some of the essential questions in your recruitment process:

  • Why are we offering this service as a clinic? If the goal is to be the leading surgeon in town and to be successful, have the courage to openly discuss that with your team and to make sure you attract staff who sees the value of that goal. If the goal is to offer the most compassionate, relaxed and empathic consultations in town because you believe your patients deserve that…make sure you hire people who see the value of that approach.
  • How are we implementing the values we stand for in our daily work? If we want to offer the patient our full attention, we probably shouldn’t finish that email before we look the patient in the eye and ask them to take a seat. If we want to be known as good listeners, we probably don’t want to be that doctor who is interrupted every other minute by a team member during a consultation with a patient.
  • How do we make sure that we check in with ourselves as a business, to always improve the customer experience? Outside the scope of the surgical, clinical and medical care, how do we improve how a person feels after they came to see you for a consultation or a treatment session?

Tip #2 Step down from the ivory tower

management tips for doctors

One of the best management tips for doctors is one many doctors don’t want to hear. In working with leading surgeons and specialists behind the scenes, defining their brand positioning strategy, we talk about how you want to come across as a doctor. 

An interesting study about Doctors on Status and Respect tells us more [Lipworth W, Little M, Markham P, Gordon J, Kerridge I. Doctors on status and respect: a qualitative study. J Bioeth Inq. 2013 Jun;10(2):205-17. doi: 10.1007/s11673-013-9430-2. Epub 2013 Mar 21. PMID: 23515959]

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"This study concludes that tomorrow’s doctors need to be prepared for a new world. It can not be taken for granted that patients and consumers will simply show more respect because a doctor has always enjoyed higher levels of social status."

We are big fans of that core value of respect, here at Digital Practice. By no means would I promote a world in which patients come and sit on top of your desk to discuss their hip replacement, lift your family photos off the cabinet and comment on the decoration of your consultation room. The foundations of respect and courtesy will hopefully stay with us, even though times have changed. 

Yet, status is a different beast. Whether you like it or not, many people, positions, and institutions enjoy less status than half a century ago. Stepping off the ivory tower is just a way to adapt to the realities of today’s society. In other words, it pays to make the patient into the VIP and let go of any inclination to see yourself as the VIP in the room.

In the reality of your practice, this means:

  • In Australia, it is more common to drop titles and use first names. If your patient hears your receptionist talk about John instead of Dr Stricher, you are simply more in tune with the way your community communicates. If lots of titles are being thrown around, it pulls up barriers between people.
  • Within your team, the difference between formalities and having a more informal way of communicating will remove the ivory tower entirely and it still allows you to build a company culture around respect in all directions. Add empathy, purpose and presence to the mix (the new innovative KPIs doctors can use to build an amazing and exceptional health practice), and you are playing in a different league now.
  • When new team members present themselves, the energy in the room will be defined by how your existing team members are behaving. If they are not communicating with you from a position of fear, and can be their authentic selves, your whole practice will come across as a great workplace. Which in the long-term keeps attracting the right people.
HR for surgeons

Tip #3: Tell us what it’s like to work with you

recruitment marketing

Recruitment marketing is the communication campaign you run, in order to attract the right people to your practice (as team members). 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Do you think ahead, and keep a network of conversation partners who - one day - might become your next new team member? Or are you the kind of practice owner who panics when a team member moves on and causes you to spend the evening crafting an ad on Seek?"

Let’s say you had just decided to become one of those more proactive doctors. 

In recent years, one of the new tools in the medical marketing toolbox has been the recruitment marketing page on a doctor’s website. A page that is not dedicated to informing or educating the patient or the referring GP. This type of web page is talking to colleagues out there who might be looking for a new challenge.

A ‘Join our team’ page or a section that is labelled ‘Work with us’ can do miracles. It’s a space where you can talk about the work environment you have created, the company culture, the values and how you apply them in your daily routine. It’s ok if a patient clicks through to that page because you are demonstrating that you carefully select your new team members.

If you are interested in further reading, you can combine this with a more advanced take on your brand story as a doctor.

Tip #4: Make it about the whole family

attracting doctors

Attracting other doctors to come and work with you can be challenging. There is pressure on the market, labour shortage and there seems to be more demand than ever for good doctors and support staff.

Here’s another tip that we have applied across different employer branding campaigns: Make it about the team member’s family.

If you require your new team members to move to your area, describe the benefits of the lifestyle. Do not promise a beach lifestyle if no one comes near the ocean because of the crocodiles. Do not Photoshop the backdrop if your practice is squeezed between two factories… However, if you can find inspiring aspects such as good schools in the area, the family-friendly character of the suburbs around your practice, do not hesitate to include them in your recruitment strategy when you are attracting doctors or team members.

Other story angles may include the importance you attach to family life, and highlighting the policies around overtime or annual leave. You would be surprised how paying attention to your new team member’s family life will make a difference in the motivation to come and work with you.

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We can help with employer branding

employer marketing

Employer marketing in the digital space can take many shapes and forms. From a simple additional page on your existing website to a full-blown campaign including ads, landing pages, and video testimonials with your current staff, through to advanced automated email funnels.

Depending on your situation, we will work on the most suitable and cost-effective employer marketing solution. Book your free 1:1 Strategy Session now.

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