Patients pay dearly for the care they receive, either out-of-pocket or in the form of ever-increasing insurance premiums, and they have high expectations when it comes to both quality care and customer service. It’s difficult for most patients to accurately assess clinical quality, but you can be sure they’re able to spot good (and bad) customer service in your office. One component of good service is professionalism among your staff. It’s challenging to define professionalism in exact terms; it is one of those “you know it when you see it” sort of things. Here are five areas to take a look at that will help determine if your staff exhibits professionalism or if there are few rough edges that need to be smoothed out.
Dress. Your employee manual should include a section on how employees are expected to dress for work. Dress codes vary by the type and location of each practice so it’s up to each office to determine what’s acceptable and what’s not. At a high-end cosmetic surgery practice, dress slacks with nice blouses or sweaters may be the norm, while in a casual pediatric office both front and back office staff may all wear scrubs. Whatever you decide is suitable for your practice, make sure everyone follows the dress code and comes to work in clean attire, functional footwear, and wearing makeup and jewelry that are appropriate for the environment.
Voice and language. Some people are naturally loud, but voice volume levels can be modified once attention has been brought to the issue. If you have employees who are overly loud or boisterous, bring it up with them privately and come up with a code or signal to use when they slip into the behavior. Something as simple as making eye contact and then smiling while putting your finger to your chin can be used to convey, “Use your indoor voice.” Make it known among staff that salty language will not be tolerated in the office, and when hiring, listen carefully for how well potential new employees use grammar and communicate clearly.
Personal habits and hygiene. Here’s a short list of habits that medical professionals should avoid while on duty: gum chewing, nail biting, hair twirling, skin picking and smelling of cigarette smoke. Personal hygiene should also be a high priority. It’s delicate to address, but if you notice that someone in your office consistently has body odor, unpleasant breath or greasy hair, you can bet that your patients notice it too. Work up your courage to say something to the individual in private and offer them suggestions to work on the issue.
Discretion. It should go without saying that patient privacy and confidentiality is critical in any medical office. Remind your staff regularly about these issues, including how to make patients feel confident that their personal information is secure in your office. Review this post at your next staff meeting to jump-start the discussion.
Behavior outside the office. You can’t control everything your employees do on their own time, but if you get wind that someone who works for you is out in the community behaving in a way that reflects poorly on your practice, keep an eye on the situation. This may not be a big issue if you practice in a large metropolitan area, but news about reputations travels quickly in rural towns and small cities. Imagine how you’d react as a patient if you saw your doctor’s nurse or receptionist drinking excessively while pole dancing at the local pub. Just food for thought.
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