Creating on-the-job experiences can build leadership skills of patient access employees. Below are some proven approaches.

  • Connect promising employees with experienced mentors.
  • Ask employees to serve interim leadership role for defined periods of time.
  • Encourage employees to act as team lead on a project.

Formal classroom training is one way for patient access employees to hone their leadership skills, but it’s not the only way. “People learn in many ways,” says Medha Havnurkar, FACHE, CPHQ, director of talent management, organizational effectiveness, and culture at Edison, NJ-based Hackensack Meridian Health.

The “70:20:10” formula holds that people acquire about 70% of learning through on-the-job experiences, 20% through coaching and feedback, and just 10% from formal training programs.

“Creating unique, enriching on-the-job experiences to build leadership skills can be done creatively and economically,” adds Havnurkar. Below are some recommendations to train future patient access leaders.

  • Assess the employee’s current leadership skills and abilities.

“This should include the employee completing a self-assessment, and the direct manager completing a manager assessment on the employee’s current observable leadership skills,” says Havnurkar.

Comparing the two assessments establishes a “baseline” of the employee’s key strengths. “This awareness could be enriched by seeking feedback from peers or from key internal or external customers that the employee has been interacting with on a regular basis for at least six months,” says Havnurkar.

  • Build a supportive, open culture with lots of coaching and feedback.

“Patient access leaders should be modeling this receptiveness by themselves, constantly seeking feedback and being willing to offer feedback upon request,” says Havnurkar.

  • Use publicly available content on leadership skills.

“In the current digital age, there are volumes of excellent books, articles, and videos that share rich information on leadership skills,” says Havnurkar.

To instill a “learning mindset,” Havnurkar suggests sharing links with employees, then asking them to come prepared to discuss the material at the next staff meeting. “Ask other high-performing leaders in other parts of your organization to share their favorite books, blogs, or videos on leadership,” suggests Havnurkar.

  • Invite these leaders to come and talk to your employees over coffee or lunch.

“Most mature leaders do oblige as they see value in sharing their expertise,” says Havnurkar.

  • Connect promising employees with experienced mentors.

Building a pool of “mentors and mentees” in the organization can expose promising employees to other high performing leaders. “This allows organizations and patient access leaders to build engagement and retain their high performers,” says Havnurkar.

‘Stretch’ Assignments

Giving employees a “stretch” assignment is one of the best ways to boost their leadership skills, says Havnurkar. Employees can serve in an interim leadership role for a defined period of time, or act as team lead on a project.

“These experiences should be supplemented by timely coaching and feedback by an experienced leader at appropriate intervals,” says Havnurkar.

Patient access employees with leadership potential can:

  • be a training facilitator to teach an onboarding module to new employees;
  • be part of a pool of facilitators rolling out a new organization-wide initiative, such as customer service;
  • participate on committees totally unrelated to their job, such as planning employee recognition programs or quality improvement teams.

“This allows patient access employees to interact, observe, and work collaboratively with team members and leaders from other departments,” says Havnurkar.

In the current healthcare environment, mergers and acquisitions happen on a regular basis. So Havnurkar suggests giving this “stretch” assignment to a promising patient access employee.

  • Find out the acquired hospital’s current patient access department processes.
  • Create a side-by-side comparison on the similarities and differences between the two organizations’ processes.
  • Draft a set of recommendations on how the integration can be approached for a smooth transition.

“Most organizations’ training departments are quite lean,” notes Havnurkar. “Training teams would gladly help to put patient access employees through train-the-trainer programs that might exist.”


  • Medha Havnurkar, FACHE, CPHQ, Director, Talent Management, Organizational Effectiveness & Culture, Hackensack Meridian Health, Edison, NJ. Phone: (848) 888-4615. Email: Medha.Havnurkar@hackensackmeridian.org.