"Wide range experts providing high quality information"

Growth Foundations: People and Culture in Healthcare Practices

gp Sep 27, 2021

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

Help! I need a doctor

Have you ever stayed awake at night worrying about how to fill your vacant staff positions? It’s no secret there’s a shortage of general practitioners.

With 10 years of doctor recruitment under her belt, Sally Stuart, Business Broker – Health Sector at Link Business knows how difficult it can be recruiting doctors.

“Nationwide, general practices are finding recruitment of the right doctor, and in many cases any doctor, a huge challenge,” she says. “However, there are other ways to go besides standard recruitment,” says Sally.

Here, our experts show that your team is your most important asset; attracting and retaining them is essential to your practice success. Proactively managing your team culture can ensure you become a “magnet” practice; a successful, high functioning organisation attracting a queue of candidates wanting to work there.

Networks are something Api Yuganathan, Senior Recruitment Partner (General Practitioners, Imaging professionals, Nurses & Midwives), at HealthcareLink, believes are essential for finding the right candidate for your role.

“At HealthcareLink, Australia’s largest primary healthcare and medical professional network, when you post your job ad on our platform we provide you with the opportunity to express your passion, the practice values you embrace and describe the candidate you want.

“Job seekers can then assess if your values align, make shortlists and quality connections. And remember, with the challenges around various location classifications (under review) and types of doctor qualifications, it can take up to 18 months to onboard a new GP.

“On the day of interview, you may decide to do a practice tour and/or go for a coffee to chat. I recommend two people interview the candidate, to ensure you are getting the right person. Find out their long-term goals, as family issues can sometimes complicate matters,” says Api.


Reputation spreads like wildfire

Reputations can cause businesses to succeed spectacularly or bring them to their knees. Because everyone will talk about your practice, make sure your whole team lives the values. A job candidate with a 7-star interview experience or a staff member’s negative experience can cause word of mouth to spread like wildfire.


GP Supervision: training the doctors of tomorrow

Inspirational mentors ensure reciprocity. GP supervisors are often motivated by wanting to give back something they themselves received as a trainee. As paid mentors, they teach clinical and effective interpersonal communication skills and the hidden curriculum, which will never be assessed in a fellowship exam but that it essential to success as a General Practitioner -  the “business” of general practice.

GP registrars (trainees) spend 90% of their time in practices, working under the supervision and support of an accredited GP supervisor. With this apprenticeship training model, once registrars have passed ‘the exam’, they can be taken on by those same general practices.

To the question of risk when taking on trainees, Glen Wallace, CEO at GP Supervisors Australia (GPSA), says that employees and in particular trainees are both your greatest enabler and your greatest risk as an organization. Good practices will set up clinical supervision and and employment supervision quite separately and intentionally. Allowing GP Supervisors to concentrate on clinical development and quality control and leaving employment matters to the practice manager means that trainees don’t avoid telling their supervisors about clinical errors and seeking advice when they are unsure. It also affords the practice manager to manage them on their billing without fear or concern about not being deemed clinically competent to progress in their training.

GPSA is funded via the Australian General Practice Training Program by the Australian Government and provides many resources for practices, including a hotline. “It’s all free and open access with no charge to practice owners,” says Glen.

He agrees that negativity experienced by trainees will spread to other trainees and reflect adversely on a practice. He suggests that when discussing salaries, rather than negotiating on percentage, ask “How much do you want to earn in a year?” Then have an open and honest conversation about the range of professional and interpersonal behaviours they will need to engage in to achieve this goal. That puts them in control of their financial goal and avoids a protracted non-sensical discussion about percentages. The goal for a registrar has to be to learn how to effectively bill and gain a following of the right patients to build a successful career in general practice.

“Healthcare teams are now multidisciplinary and the financial pressures on practices are very different to 15 years ago. And as part of the team, give registrars a basic understanding of the practice budget, how much needs to be worked and earned to pay the bills. The team needs to understand what keeps the doors of the practice open and what their percentage management fee buys for them,” he says.


Practice culture: the organisational heartbeat

“A courageous culture connects its values to specific behaviours so people know what is expected, encouraged, and rewarded within their team and organisation.  In addition to setting clear expectations, the process gives organisations shared language and a well-defined culture. It helps us determine cultural fit during hiring, and offers us very straightforward standards of behaviour when there are non-performance-related issues.” – Brene Brown

Dr Jaspreet Saini, co-owner at Rosedale Medical Practice, is creating his business as a destination of choice — for patients, employees, and medical students and registrars.

Conversation, feedback and recognition (CFR) are practices he employs. “It’s all about making sure staff feel engaged, their work is meaningful and they feel relevant,” he says.

“I believe in having courageous conversations, which is the difference between being a good and a great leader. I use positive recognition via written notes and find rewards are also helpful. Every conversation drives culture. If you find staff behaviours are not aligning with your values, you should intervene,” he says.

To prevent long-standing staff feeling irrelevant when you introduce new initiatives, Jaspreet suggests aiming for cultural “renovation” – take the existing good points and add in the new ones.


Onboarding a new staff member

Not everyone experiences a good onboarding process. But introducing a new employee into a practice to help them understand their new position and role requirements is crucial. If neglected, the chances of retaining them are very low.  Onboarding is a continual conversation; not ‘set and forget’.

  • Have business cards and stationery ready for them on Day 1
  • Ask how they want to appear on social media, encourage co-creation to engage them
  • HR – have employment documents ready, explain leave, entitlements, CPD, and other benefits
  • IT and computer set up before arrival. Explain and train
  • Welcome pack with goodies (optional but nice)


Offboarding: the exit interview

The offboarding process includes the exit interview and practicalities such as returning equipment. During the conversation you may discover issues you can address, possibly inducing them to stay. Though, sometimes it’s clear that both sets of values do not align and it’s better that they leave.

Ending an exit discussion with “Is there anything else you think I should know?” can reveal hidden gems of information.


Diversity is indispensable

Practices benefit from having this value front and centre. “A lack of diversity in a practice causes staff to not see people’s needs, resulting in a loss of ability to understand individual challenges faced by diverse team members.

“A lack of diversity, inclusion and belonging in your practice means you stunt your growth,” says Jaspreet.


Culture + people + expert advice = growth

To conclude, smart and proactive healthcare practice owners know that strong, lived, people-based values and leadership will help create a robust workplace culture. When you combine culture and a systematic strategy to build and grow, you’ll have so much to show and offer potential candidates. Who wouldn’t be impressed with your high functioning, quality team who attract new staff and patients like a magnet?

As a highly trained health professional, your focus is on patient health — you’re not expected to be a seasoned business specialist. Our Practice Success Collective team of experts are here to help you with professional and time-saving advice; contact them and they’ll guide you every step of the way.

Sally Stuart

Business Broker – Health Sector, Link Business

0437 082 045

[email protected]

Api Yuganathan

Senior Recruitment Partner (General Practitioners, Imaging professionals, Nurses & Midwives), HealthcareLink

1300 132 920

[email protected]

Glen Wallace

CEO, GP Supervisors Australia

0499 012 627

[email protected]

Dr Jaspreet Saini

Owner, Rosedale Medical Practice

(02) 9680-9644

[email protected]