Get new hires 'up and running' with training

Pair inexperienced registrars, mentors

Training of new hires has become much more comprehensive, due to the expanded patient access role, according to Betsy Keating, interim patient access director at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, IL. Keating is a senior consulting manager at Chadds Ford, PA-based IMA Consulting, which provides revenue cycle services for the healthcare industry.

New hire orientation for Northwest Community's registrars now covers multiple systems, insurance, department-specific compliance principles, customer service, and cash collections. "Factored into the training are the variables associated with the area in which the registrar is assigned, which can be inpatient, outpatient, or emergency department registration," says Keating.

Keating uses a blended approach of computer-based training, instructor-led sessions, and practical application in a test environment to prep trainees for patient interactions. In addition, new hires are provided with tip sheets, system edits, and scripts to improve their accuracy and help with complex tasks, says Keating. "Once the trainee is able to navigate through the systems, they team up with a preceptor to mentor them through their transition to independence," she adds.

Mentors serve to reinforce

At Children's National Medical Center in Silver Spring, MD, a mentor program aligns new employees with senior employees in the ambulatory services department.

"Mentors reinforce system functions and soft skills learned during formal training," reports Keisha Byam, MPH, training manager and safety coach.

Employees have a consistent "go-to" person, and can turn to the mentors as they transition into their new roles, says Byam. At times, even experienced registrars might need to rely on another lead person, other than the department manager, she adds. "We have found many employees prefer to be 'peer checked' by the mentor before taking the issue to the manager," says Byam.

Here are some questions that new hires had for their mentors:

• How do you enter insurance information in the registration system?

• What are the steps to correct a duplicate patient in the registration system?

• When is the best time to ask family for payment?

• If I am uncomfortable because a patient or family member is shouting, who can I reach out to?

Leaders cultivated

Mentors benefit as well, says Byam, because they develop leadership skills, such as the ability to lead a training session and communicate with a diverse employee population.

"Employees take extra steps to display professionalism and 'shine' in their area of expertise, such as customer service, time-of-service collection, registration, or scheduling, so they can be nominated for the mentor program," reports Byam.

Peer-to-peer education is particularly effective for scheduling, registration and payment collections, says Byam, and "soft skills" such as customer service.

While formal training covers the principles of making an individual comfortable during their hospital visit, a mentor can "take this discussion to the next level" by providing their own experiences with comforting a family after a child's diagnosis with a serious health condition, says Byam. "Effective mentors lead to reduction of errors and increased payment collections. They are a morale booster for employees," she says.

Formal education is necessary for the mentors and new employees, however, adds Byam. "Mentor burnout can occur if new and existing employees are not provided with an opportunity to practice and comprehend principles learned prior to working with a mentor," she explains.


For more information on training newly hired patient access staff, contact:

• Keisha Byam, MPH, Training Manager and Safety Coach, Ambulatory Services, Children's National Medical Center, Silver Spring, MD. Phone: (301) 572-8730. Fax: (301) 572-8712. E-mail:

• Betsy Keating, Interim Patient Access Director, Patient Access Services, Northwest Community Hospital. Phone: (847) 618-4595. E-mail: