Managing Office Staff: What Podiatry Can Learn From The Airline Industry

Start Page: 68
Lynn Homisak, PRT

   Telling is not teaching. Teaching requires much more effort than that. I did not understand a fraction of the requirements to pilot that aircraft. Even though I received a primer of the “hows” of starting and stopping the plane, I did not know the who, what, when, where and whys, let alone the ifs. The bottom line is I could no more fly that plane with any success than a staff person (experienced or not) could be expected to perform his or her duties in the office without the necessary training.

   My philosophy of working in a podiatry practice is and always has been to teach staff how to do everything, even if they are hired to work in one particular area. This does not mean that all staff must be perfect at all roles but they must be proficient. If needed, they can help with all office duties and support co-workers who are out due to illness or vacation.

   The best training tool is shadowing but that does not mean staff members should just follow another staff person around until they “get it.” It means spending time with each member of the team to see what he or she does, and learning how everyone’s role fits into the team puzzle.

   Shadowing the doctor is the most critical because one learns what questions patients ask and how the doctor responds. They will have a general understanding of podiatric conditions plus basic foot anatomy as they watch the doctor explain X-ray findings and the various types of treatments and surgeries they perform. Finally, they can become more anticipatory and prepare specific instruments, supplies, prescriptions, injections, instructions and durable medical equipment items as needed.

   Like pilots, the staff needs to be trained properly. That means not only showing the staff how to do something but also explaining the reasons why. After a detailed demonstration, allow them to attempt a task themselves under direct guidance. Ask questions to determine their knowledge level. Then when you are confident the staff can do something properly, give them their wings and let them fly solo.

   Yes, it takes time (at least three weeks) but providing proper training upfront will help reduce the amount of mistakes that need subsequent correction (and re-correction). Here are some other keys to emphasize for your staff.

• Job descriptions (to identify their roles and responsibilities)
• Performance evaluations (to let them know how they are doing and where they need to improve)
• Cross-training (to be able to fill in any vacant roles to reduce stress and keep the office flow intact)
• Employee manuals (to keep them in the know with respect to rules, regulations and discipline)
• Regularly scheduled in-services (to allow learning and hands on-training)
• Staff meetings (to create and build a “can do” team)
• Mandatory attendance to at least one annual conference.

In Conclusion

Leaving out any of these success tools is analogous to neglecting a key element in flying. A perfect landing without the wheels down is a crash. It is a combination of good communication, teamwork and proper training that the airline industry counts on to keep them flying high. We could all take a lesson.

   Ms. Homisak, the President of SOS Healthcare Management Solutions, has a Certificate in Human Resource Studies from Cornell University School of Industry and Labor Relations. She is recognized nationwide as a speaker, writer and expert in staff and human resource management.

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James DiNovis DPMsays: December 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Ms. Homisak has only touched on a small portion of what has come out of aerospace engineering. The Crew Resource Manual (CRM) was used as a resource for the writing of Atul Giwandi's The Checklist Manifesto. Many of us are aware of the use of checklists in the OR prior to beginning a surgical case.

The CRM has also been used in developing heuristics and algorithms for anesthesiologists in dealing with OR crises. Doctor Gaba et. al. at Stanford have developed a simulation program (think flight simulation) for anesthesiology residence programs at Stanford and Mass General for instance.

Another resource developed from CRM, Operations Management and In Extremus Psychology is the text, Crisis Management in the Acute Care Setting. It is quite comprehensive and helpful in improving quality of care and patient safety.

Thank you Ms. Homisak for your interesting article.

Jim DiNoivs

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