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Ohio staff spend one day a month in each of the other positions

The profit margin is so small that no medical office can afford to have people doing bits of work, says the manager of a digestive health medical practice in Ohio. For efficiency, everybody has to have a concept of what everybody else is doing.

To achieve just that, she requires her staff to spend one day a month in each of the other jobs. Sometimes one person sits with another; other times two people switch jobs entirely. Even the manager participates to keep current on how things are being done and to get ideas for improving operations. By performing tasks, the manager sees the workflow and how time gets allocated; she also hears what patients are saying – and patients see her.

The total swaps are possible because the practice is small with only one physician and six staff. However, a larger practice can rotate jobs within departments or even rotate key people to other departments.

There is no set schedule and many times no more notice than a tap on the shoulder and a “today you’re going to do someone else’s job.” Staff are also still responsible for doing their own work though, so if a situation arises where the visiting staffer is needed at his or her regular job, that person takes care of it.

The continued exposure to the other jobs is essential, the manager says. Otherwise, people don’t remember how to do them. And being able to fill in at any position at any time has its benefits. One is that no matter who’s out, everything still runs smoothly. Another is that everybody understands – and appreciates – what everybody else is doing, which ends the “not-my-job” stuff. Still more important, the office gets the most from every staffer. If the nurse understands the check-in process, for example, she can ask the front desk staff to gather additional information or to get information in a different format. And if the front desk staffer understands the nurse’s job, she sees why that information is necessary.

Knowing every position is a job requirement. It is explained to new hires that the job is not for a specific position but for the practice. A staffer takes ownership in one position but has to learn all the other positions as well. It is pointed out that the full office training is an employee benefit because it makes staff more marketable. Somebody who moves to another office has more to offer than the next person who has experience in only one aspect of medical office work.

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