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If one of your registrars was offered a little more money or better hours by another area of the hospital, would he or she find your patient access department impossible to leave?
"Patient access leaders often forget that customer service is also for employees," says Maxine Wilson, CHAA, CHAM, ambassador for the National Association of Healthcare Access Management. To boost retention, she says, "nothing works better than simple appreciation, and it doesn’t cost a dime."
Kym Brown, MHA, CHAM, patient access manager at Conifer Health Solutions at CHI Saint Elizabeth in Lincoln, NE, says, "I feel one of most important roles is to increase morale, decrease turnover, and increase retention." Here are some ways to boost morale:
Work beside employees.
"My team’s morale is increased by simply seeing me actively working and participating at their side," says Brown. "I do not ask any more of them than I would ask of myself."
Hold small contests.
Brown occasionally gives small prizes to the employee who registers the most patients in one hour or one day, who has the fewest errors that day, or who collects the most during a certain timeframe. "The prizes come from inexpensive $1 bins at craft or department stores. They are just fun little tokens," says Brown. "Staff enjoy the friendly competition."
Write thank-you notes.
Wilson recommends keeping cards on hand to tell staff members things such as "The department depends on you so much. I’m so glad you’re a part of our team," or "Thank you so much for working that extra shift last night. That was so special of you to give up your day off to help us."
Brown mails handwritten thank-you notes to her employees for "anything and everything. It is special when they receive this at home, because their family sees it as well."
She sometimes leaves the notes on the desk with a chocolate candy. "Some staff have a collection of them on the bulletin boards," says Brown. "Others say they keep them on their fridge at home."
Compliment staff publicly.
Brown chooses a "wall of fame" employee every month. She creates a bulletin board highlighting that employee and anything they want to share with their colleagues.
"Publicly thanking staff at staff meetings is also important," says Brown. "Telling someone that their hard work paid off in front of the entire team is a booster."
Brown posts on the employee webpage recognition program regularly. "All employees can post here freely," she says. "These postings run along our Intranet homepage, similar to a Twitter feed. All staff nationwide can see them."
Recent postings thanked employees for "taking great care of that patient today and being the perfect example of compassion and customer service," and "taking the lead on that special project and ensuring success."
Give small gifts to reward staff.
At Littleton (CO) Adventist Hospital, leaders distribute $5 gift cards for the hospital’s coffee cart, cafeteria, and local coffee shop.
"If an associate receives recognition from a department, doctor’s office, or a patient, he or she receives one of these rewards as a thank you for going above and beyond," says Christen Souza, scheduling coordinator.
A patient might say that an employee took time to give directions, for example. "A department may recognize someone for staying late to add on a stat patient, making sure the orders are correct so the department does not have to try and track down an order after the offices are closed," says Souza.
Give employees a survey.
"Some staff may put down that they want a raise. But regardless of what type of feedback you get, they’ll appreciate that you are asking," says Wilson.
One registrar wanted the department to use only part-timers to work weekend shifts. Wilson told her, publicly, that it was an excellent idea but would be difficult to achieve. "I told everyone, I’m open to suggestions for how we can make it work,’" she says. "You don’t want to shut down an idea even when you know the chances are slim that it’s going to happen."