For many urgent care clinics, COVID-19 created challenges with staff shortages and burnout in 2020 and early 2021. While patient volumes have somewhat stabilized, we anticipate fluctuations again with the beginning of school, flu season, and a potential uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Throughout these fluctuations in visit volumes, we want to keep staff happy. It’s painful to lose good people, and it’s a challenge to hire and train new staff.
Now is a good opportunity to instill even better practices to keep staff happy and able to handle high patient volume. Here are tips on how you can support your teams to stay engaged and avoid burnout.
Burnout can happen fast for an overwhelmed staff. But in-clinic efficiencies and load-sharing can ease a lot of the burden that comes with heavy patient traffic. These tips are proven to help, and come straight from the experts who presented at our How to Modernize Your Clinic for a New Era in Urgent Care webinar.
Technology is meant to make life easier, so lean on it when you can. Your EMR/PM solution should provide some efficiencies, but patient engagement (PE) technology can go even further. And better yet, it will help improve the patient experience so that you get repeat patients and rave reviews. Here are some things PE tech can do:
There are non-technological solutions you can try, too. You can make minor changes to your staff model that create minimal HR overhead and big results.
If you’re leading the staff at your urgent care(s), you don’t have to carry the burden of problem-solving alone. Your staff may have ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. More importantly, if you let your staff take ownership of the challenges, they will be more engaged in the solutions.
Dr. Patel explained that he makes his staff partners in problem-solving by sharing data in daily huddles.
“We’ll have daily huddles where managers speak with the teammates and they’ll present a problem and say ‘Hey, help us solve this.’ And they’ll come together to solve it. So once a problem is owned by the team and they’re engaged in solving it, we present data that shows them that they’ve solved it. And the amazing thing is, they feel that solving these problems, addressing these problems, addressing these challenges, are what they’re supposed to do, and they feel better about being on our team. And ultimately, when the team is happy, the providers are happy, the patients are happy.”
As we mentioned above, if you’re experiencing declines in patient volume, now is the time to reflect on what you learned, share your vison with your staff, and make changes that will help you handle stress when it gets busy again.
But Dr. Patel also recommends using this time to take breaks. Is your staff willing to go home early if the volume is low? Can you encourage or incentivize people to schedule their vacations during down time? If your teams can work together and agree to take the time to rest when it’s slow, they’ll be better prepared when it’s time to run again — and as Patel emphasized, run fast.
Part of what will make you successful in a fluctuating business environment is adaptability. When you can pivot quickly, it will be less stressful for your staff to adjust. In addition to having proper tools and team buy-in, it helps to know what’s going on around you.
What kind of a community are you part of? Is there a prevalent geriatric presence? Are you in a hot spot for Lyme or other diseases? Is substance abuse widespread? By knowing who is near you, you can give your providers the tools and training they need to serve the specific populations coming into the clinic. The more prepared they are, the more efficient they can be.
This may also be an opportunity to fill gaps in volume and engage the staff even further. Make them the local experts on healthcare by getting involved in government and community organizations. Furthermore, reach out to the specific populations you identified and offer education on their complex needs. The closer the connection between your staff and the community, the happier, more engaged they will be.
The How to Modernize Your Clinic for a New Era in Urgent Care webinar was a huge success! It was filled with valuable tips and insights, as well as a thoughtful Q and A. You can watch it on-demand any time by clicking below.