When opening an urgent care clinic, getting to the starting line is a feat in and of itself. From securing funding to finding the right location, and from starting the contracting and credentialing process to choosing an EMR, you have all the bases covered. Now it’s time to think about your staff.
According to Patrice Pash, our startup expert and consultant, “When you start up an urgent care, you need to be lean and mean.” For many owners, this means wearing many different hats—trying to handle as much of the operational duties as possible, while building your practice. While this makes sense financially, and maybe for a short time, it doesn’t necessarily make sense operationally, says Pash.
As your business picks up, you have to be fully present to your own limitations—to know when the load you’re carrying is not helping your business, but is a roadblock to growth and success. You need to determine the right time to increase your bench strength.
This is especially important if your goal is to open multiple clinics. You must have adequate, trained, and proficient staff to help you make your vision real. When visit volume is between 40-50 patients per day, usually between the first and second year, it makes sense to grow a leadership team.
“Don’t think about opening a second location without go-to people such as an operations or clinic manager and a marketing manager,” says Pash.
Who to hire first?
Determine a leadership hierarchy that makes sense for your clinic, and then find someone to be the eyes and ears to lead every department. The size of your clinic will help to determine the people you will need to be sure every operational detail is on someone’s to-do list.
You know what your strengths are. Be sure to hire people to fill in the gaps between your strengths. In addition, look for leaders with the following traits:
- Healthcare experience or formal training
- Strong communication skills
- Flexibility, adaptability, and a good organizational fit
- Dependability, good professional judgement, and strong character
- General managerial skills
And choose people who share your vision and compliment your management style.
Start with a clinic manager to handle the day-to-day management of the clinic including staffing, scheduling, inventory, paperwork management, and responding to patient inquiries. Often, your clinic manager can handle the HR obligations, depending on the size of the clinic.
For most clinics, a marketing manager is a smart next hire. So much of the urgent care business depends on rising above your competition, and this requires a constant focus on managing your customers your reputation.
“In an urgent care practice, adding people is very synergistic.” According to Pash, one plus one equals four. This means that the addition of one person can actually boost productivity and operational excellence exponentially.
Each member of your team has their own areas of expertise, including your physicians. While doctors hold a lot of clout and can be a big predictor of the clinic's success, in most cases they shouldn’t make all the decisions. They should be the medical director, dictating medical culture and policies for how to care for patients. They should help establish standard of care and standard operational procedures and should promote quality assurance.
The day-to-day operations should be left in the hands of the capable staff you choose to handle staffing, paperwork, marketing, and all the other tasks that are required every day in an urgent care environment.
Being a great leader means finding people you believe in to work next to you, sharing your vision, providing direction, and trusting their decisions. Micromanaging may be the biggest reason great staff leaves to play on another team.
That being said, you still lead the team. Stay informed and hold regular meetings to solicit information and ideas. Keep the lines of communication open to ensure ideas and information flows up and down the chain of command and employees feel connected and in-the-know. This leadership strategy will help improve operations, keep ideas fresh, keep the vision top-of-mind, and make everyone on your team feel valued for their input.
Exceptional service makes all the difference.
Patients have lots of choices when it comes to urgent care, and the service they receive will often play a big part in their decision to return. Your staff is the front line and an extension of your vision, not only for your patients’ medical care, but for the relationships they build and maintain with patients.
To be successful, choose your staff carefully, and fill your clinic with people who share your high standards, improve the patient experience, and contribute to your growth.