An applicant’s personality is often more important than his or her credentials or experience, according to patient access leaders interviewed by Hospital Access Management. To identify red flags that someone is a bad fit for your department:
- Ask applicants to recount a time they turned around a bad situation.
- Have applicants shadow staff members.
- Clearly describe what registrars will encounter in the emergency department setting.
During an interview for a patient access position, one applicant confided that she had difficulty working the second shift on her last job. “And she was applying for a second shift position! That was a red flag waving in the wind,” says Lolita M. Tyree, CHAM, MSW, patient access manager in the ED at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, VA.
Red flags often are more subtle, however. “I find that candidates will say nearly anything just to have a chance to get into the role they are interviewing for,” says Tyree. “Things that are unsaid speak volumes.”
On the other hand, applicants’ demeanors can work in their favor. Recently, a candidate admitted to Tyree that a negative write-up caused her to lose a previous job. “During the interview, this individual was extremely open and honest about the prior job and the circumstances surrounding them being let go,” she recalls. Tyree decided to hire the individual, who ended up being a large asset to the department.
Recently, Lilli Mandelik, director of Patient Access Ambulatory Services at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA, was looking for a new staff member to perform insurance eligibility work in the evenings at an off-campus location. “My first concern was that I need to find people who can work independently without much supervisory support and who are reliable and self-motivated,” she recalls.
She interviewed many candidates with the right skill set, but none reassured her that they could be trusted in the role, until a candidate surfaced who conveyed “a level of self-discipline and pride,” she says. “I knew immediately that this was a lady who I could trust to be here without supervision and to support the mission and values of the hospital.”
“Is this person someone you’d want helping your grandmother, parent, or cousin?” Mandelik weighs the answer to this question more heavily than anything she sees on their resume. She looks for candidates with “a certain level of sensitivity and emotional intelligence.” If a patient is experiencing subtle stroke symptoms, for example, she wants to know that the applicant would pick up on the fact that immediate medical attention is needed.
Mandelik looks for people with the right personality to turn an unhappy patient into a satisfied customer. “Some people tend to argue with patients and pour gasoline on a fire,” she says. “Others can make a connection with that person, and the patient walks out happy and an advocate for the hospital.”
A scheduler in the hospital’s Breast Center has this ability. “I get more compliments about her than any other employee,” says Mandelik. “In two minutes, she’s their best friend. She has a way of calming down a frightening situation. The patients all want to meet her after their procedure.”
Several years ago, Mandelik was looking for a concierge to fill an open position in the hospital’s Cancer Center. “Previously, the person at the front desk was perfectly groomed and professional, but rarely spoke to the patients unless they came to the desk to ask a question,” she recalls. “That employee was quiet and not very outgoing.”
When the employee left the position, Mandelik hired someone with “a big personality.” The new concierge anticipates patients’ needs for wheelchairs or directions, and in general, makes patients feel very welcome. “It was one of the best hiring decisions I made,” she says. “The patients adore the new concierge. They come in looking for him. They feel that he really cares about them and their healthcare experience.”
Answers speak volumes
Eisenhower’s patient access leaders use an interview checklist with questions under the headings “Culture fit,” “Communication,” “Teamwork,” “Attitude,” “Conflict resolution,” “Service focus,” “Clinical abilities,” and “Job knowledge.” [The Interview Evaluation Checklist used by the department is included with the online issue. For assistance, contact customer service at customer.service@AHCMedia.com or (800) 688-2421.]
However, Mandelik also asks each candidate to share his or her greatest strength and greatest weakness.
Recently, she explained to an applicant for a call center position that the position was very detail-oriented. The applicant nodded her head enthusiastically. But when asked her greatest weakness, she answered, “Well, I’m kind of disorganized.”
“I knew immediately that this is not somebody I wanted to hire,” says Mandelik. “She couldn’t think on her feet, and in patient access, you have to do that.”
“Can you share an experience where you took someone’s negative experience and turned it into a positive?” If an applicant doesn’t have a quick answer for this, it troubles Michael F. Sythe, director of revenue cycle operations at Eisenhower Medical Center. “Even if you worked at McDonald’s, you can have a person who gets mustard on a hamburger and specifically asked for no mustard,” says Sythe. How the applicant handled such a complaint is a strong indicator of how he or she will do in the field of patient access, he says.
“We experience that all the time,” says Sythe. “A patient may say, ‘I’ve been waiting for 15 minutes, and my appointment is in five minutes.’” The patient access employee needs to turn things around so the patient leaves on a positive note. “That is the reality of patient access,” says Sythe.” (See related story in this issue on determining if applicant is a good fit for the ED.)
- Lilli Mandelik, Patient Access Ambulatory Services, Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, CA. Email: LMandelik@emc.org.
- Lolita M. Tyree, CHAM, MSW, Patient Access Manager, Emergency Department, Riverside Regional Medical Center, Newport News, VA. Phone: (757) 594-3334. Fax: (757) 594-3069. Email: Lolita.Tyree@rivhs.com.
- Michael F. Sythe, Director, Revenue Cycle Operations, Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, CA. Phone: (760) 837-8704. Fax: (760) 773-4317. Email: Msythe@emc.org.