Outpatient staff must be equipped to handle complexities + more talent acquisition insights from Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin

Mark Farrell, executive director of talent delivery at Milwaukee-based Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, spoke to Becker's ASC Review about what it takes to effectively recruit outpatient talent. 

Froedtert partnered with Cielo, a provider of recruitment process outsourcing and talent acquisition solutions, to tackle the challenges of talent shortages — read Cielo's perspective here.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and length.

Question: What's the No. 1 challenge healthcare providers face when recruiting outpatient staff?

Mark Farrell: Froedtert Health received more than 108,000 applications last year, and we conducted 10,000 in-person interviews. We hired more than 3,000 external candidates in the past fiscal year. That means we have about 100 new people starting their careers with us every two weeks. Acclimating them to the position and our culture through workforce and clinical orientations is huge — and, of course, a challenge. We recruit for more than 800 positions at any given time, and we are hiring across the entire health system. With our partners at the Medical College of Wisconsin, open positions range from physicians, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, techs and administrative staff, to entry-level support staff in food and nutrition, transport, etc. — as well as rehabilitation, pharmacy, radiology and IT staff.

Healthcare continues to be a growing field with large growth projections into the future as the population here in Wisconsin ages. Challenges in hiring will continue to persist as there is a limited supply of skilled talent in the aforementioned roles, as well as critical roles such as the medical assistant, which is a difficult position to recruit for and essential to clinic operations.

Q: What qualities make someone a great candidate for the outpatient space?

MF: Excellent customer service and a passion for patient care is what makes an ideal candidate. Clinics in particular can be the first introduction for many of our patients and visitors to the Froedtert & the MCW health system, so we want to provide a great first impression. We also look for experienced professionals due the variety of situations one may encounter during the course of the day. The variety of procedures and complexity of work done in outpatient settings has changed, so having staff who know how to handle this complexity with patient-centric care is critical.

Q: What qualities make someone a not-so-great fit for the outpatient space?

MF: Speaking in generalities, some staff have a perception that working within an outpatient setting can be less stressful and less demanding than acute settings. While the hours and complexities can certainly vary, we work hard to make sure that staff is prepared appropriately for outpatient settings.

Q: What can healthcare organizations do to ensure they hire great outpatient talent in a timely fashion?

MF: First, it starts with recruiting. We focus on strong community and school partnerships, career fairs, internship partnership programs, community referral partnerships — as well as participate in education advisory boards, workforce alliances and regional initiatives to recruit top talent to deliver the best in academic medicine. Additionally, we are utilizing technology to identify and source good candidates who haven't even applied or expressed interest with us yet. We're also using technology to conduct initial interviews — candidates really appreciate the convenience.

It is key to anticipate staffing vacancies, for leaders to know what makes a person successful, and to make hiring decisions quickly. Occasionally, organizations want to look at as many external candidates as possible, when oftentimes, an internal candidate is primed for the position right in front of them. As we worked to add additional staff for a recent expansion, the hiring leader's ability to make decisions quickly made a huge impact in our ability to hire the staff needed to open our new patient-care areas. Finally, we want each candidate to have a great experience through the interview process because, even if they aren't the right fit right now, they may be the right fit in the future.

Q: From a cost perspective, why is it important to have an efficient hiring strategy?

MF: Leaving positions vacant for too long not only hurts our ability to care for patients, but it also impacts employee engagement and patient satisfaction, which in the long run can lead to increased employee turnover and patient dissatisfaction.

Want to participate in future Q&As? Email Angie Stewart: astewart@beckershealthcare.com.

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