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MANAGING STAFF

Should your medical office have a moonlighting policy?

Ideally, you want medical office staff members to work only for the practice. This ensures that the job—the job they are doing for you—is their primary focus.

Unfortunately, this expectation might not be realistic.

Following the moon

There are a number of reasons employees moonlight. The most common reason is money. Working a second job may be a necessity, especially for staff members with families or those who are heads of households. Let’s face it: a dollar doesn’t buy what it once did.

But money isn’t the only reason staffers moonlight. A part-time job is a great way to test the waters if a person is thinking of a career change.

People sometimes take on second jobs in order to learn new skills as well.

Establishing policies and guidelines

Given these reasons, it’s not advisable to try and prevent employees from moonlighting. In some states, such as California, it’s illegal to prohibit moonlighting.

In addition, because physicians and other clinicians may, in effect, “moonlight,” singling out office staff could create legal problems.

Therefore, in lieu of prohibiting moonlighting, you should ensure that policies and guidelines address:

  • confidentiality;
  • job expectations; and
  • any potential conflict of interest.

Protecting the practice

Although the emphasis in a medical office is on HIPAA, confidentiality doesn’t only pertain to patient information.

The practice has other information that should not be shared. This includes employee records, salary data, details related to benefits offerings, purchasing and lease agreements, and more.

All have the potential to negatively impact the practice, and none should be shared.

Employees with access to this information should be advised accordingly.

An employee confidentiality agreement, like this one, helps highlight the importance of confidentiality. This tool can be modified for your medical practice.

Setting job expectations

Every employee should know what is expected of him/her with regard to the job. To this end, every job should have a job description—and this description should be written.

A job description is also a valuable tool for measuring and discussing employee performance.

If moonlighting appears to be affecting an employee’s work at the practice, the inclination is to talk about the person’s side job. Instead, when meeting with a staffer, you should reference and review job requirements, as detailed in the job description, and emphasize the practice’s expectations.

Here is a job description template that will help you create job descriptions for your medical office.

Conflict of interest

Employees who moonlight won’t usually pose a threat to the practice from the standpoint of conflict of interest. This said, you don’t want any surprises.

Therefore, you should identify what would constitute a conflict of interest in advance, and convey this information as appropriate.

For example, a medical office employee should not work for a vendor that does business with the practice.

While, here again, in certain states you may not be able to prohibit this, it can be covered, albeit vaguely, in a moonlighting policy.

Drafting a policy

So yes, a moonlighting policy offers some protection.

Although such a policy will not discourage or prevent employees from working elsewhere while working for you, it will encourage them to think twice about their other employment activity.

It will also remind employees about their responsibilities to the practice.

Here is a model moonlighting policy that can be modified for your practice.

Conclusion

You may not be able to stop an employee from moonlighting—and most experts agree that you shouldn’t even try. However, by taking these steps, you can minimize any adverse effects an off-duty job may pose to the practice.

Doing so will also give you, as a manager, additional peace of mind that will allow you to better enjoy your daylight and moonlight hours.


Editor’s picks:

Model Policy: Moonlighting


Why your medical practice needs job descriptions


Model Tool: Employee confidentiality agreement


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