Innovative program boosts staff training, recruitment

AM acts on hunch, instigates class at local school

Thinking about ways to recruit access personnel and to give them the extensive education they need to do the job, Pam Partlow, RN, manager of central scheduling and registration at Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth, had an inspiration that led to a solution for both problems.

"I took a risk and the risk worked out," she says. "You can’t be afraid of risk."

Acting on a hunch about a way to both increase her pool of potential recruits and provide them more training than job orientation time frames allow, Partlow approached the Scioto County Joint Vocational School with the idea of creating a course to teach access skills.

"They had some funding that would fit," she says. "We tried it and they liked it."

Partlow and her three supervisors set up a program and a syllabus for teaching the skills necessary to register patients in a hospital, a clinic or a physician’s office, she adds. The supervisors teach the class in the evenings after work, trading off from quarter to quarter, and are paid by the school through a grant. The central scheduling supervisor teaches the last three weeks of the session, she notes, when students are ready to absorb those skills.

In addition to registration, insurance, Medicare and scheduling information, the class covers etiquette and how to "dress for success," she adds. "We have someone from human resources come and speak to them. They can apply for a job while they’re still in the class."

In place for about two years, the session recently was extended from six weeks to nine, Partlow says, so that more billing information can be taught, and students have more opportunity for hands-on experience. In addition to "shadowing" employees in admitting and registration, they will have the opportunity to observe the billing operation and visit physicians’ offices, she says.

While students are receiving the on-site admission and registration training, Partlow says, "we have them get confidentiality statements signed, work on our computer system, and do simple registrations. A supervisor is with them at all times."

Having new hires who have been through the vocational school training makes job orientation "so much easier," she adds. "Things connect in their head and click a lot quicker."

The only potential problem with the program has to do with the grant requirements, Partlow notes. "A certain number of students have to be hired to keep the funding up, and we’re not always able to hire the people who apply. They have to pass references and drug screens and may not get through that process. But if they come to class and learn, there still could be good positions out there for them."