Train Your Staff, Then Watch Your Practice Thrive

By: Susan Hoy

Several months ago, I invited a friend, who is a Chiropractic consultant, to come into our office and evaluate our patient procedures. Of course, I wanted to show off to my friend and I also wanted her to come on a busy day so she could help us tune up our systems. Even though I am also a consultant, it is much more difficult to evaluate your own practice. It’s like proofreading your own writing. Sometimes, in our own practice, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

I forewarned our front-desk C.A., “Robbie, make sure next Wednesday is packed, so that we can have an effective evaluation. So, start envisioning a busy day!” Well, let me warn you, if you are going to give an instruction, especially about envisioning, make sure you are perfectly clear on what you want! Robbie packed the schedule all right; when I looked at it the day before our consultant was to arrive, there were seven new patients scheduled!

Seven new patients in one day — it was a record for us. Robbie did what I told her to do, that’s for sure. If I had the instruction to give over again, I would have said, “Robbie, pack the schedule with regular patients.” It would have been a much easier day. I wondered how we were going to be able to pull it off.

Normally, we pride ourselves on being able to easily handle several new patients in a day. Our new patient procedures are good, and our staff has the “do whatever it takes” attitude. My concern, however, was that we had two new staff members, both of whom worked as assistants to the doctor. When you have two new staff members, and then throw seven new patients into the equation… well, let’s just say the next day was going to be challenging.

I would like to report that everything went well and that we impressed my consultant friend, but to tell the truth, that’s not what happened. It was a disaster. First, if you have ever had a consultant in your office, you know they add a certain amount of confusion because they have to ask a lot of questions and follow everybody around. How else are they going to know what you do? Then, of course, our two new staff members were not well trained enough to work swiftly. Everything had to be thought through. If you want to have a great patient system, procedures should be so well trained and practiced that it takes very little thought to get the job done. That day was the most confused and discombobulated day I can remember. Of course, my friend had to be there to witness it.

Recently, I attended a seminar given by Dr. Guy Riekeman, President of Palmer College. He said there are three main things that make a practice thrive: #1 patient education; #2 staff tenure; and #3 Chiropractic philosophy. Most Chiropractors agree with reasons #1 and #3, but a lot of them don’t realize how important #2 is. That disastrous day, I became aware of just how important staff tenure is. Because a well-trained, well-practiced, well-educated staff should be able to take care of seven new patients in a day.

I am writing this article over a year later, and those two staff members are still with us. I am willing to bet that today, they can handle ten new patients in a day without any problems, because we have spent the last year training, practicing, and role playing over and over again. Now, when we have a very busy day, we don’t even have to think about our procedures and patient flow. The only thing we have to do is focus on the patient.

Additionally, our doctor doesn’t have to worry what kind of care his patients are getting while he is giving his life-saving adjustments. That’s because our staff knows that their main job is to keep our doctor focused on adjusting and not worrying about what the staff is doing! A distracted doctor is not a healer.

In our office, we have a system for everything (just like the human body does). We know what to say to patients because we are scripted. We know how to present things to let our patients know that we are concerned, caring professionals. We know exactly what to do with our ROFs, our re-exams and re-X-rays, and reactivations, because week after week they are practiced.

Thanks to my friend the consultant, who helped with some of our procedures, we are more efficient, streamlined and simplified. And we are attracting more patients than ever, because for some reason the universe knows we can handle them.

A few days after that challenging day, I was showing one of those new patients to our consultation room to have her report of findings. I found myself apologizing to her in case she noticed our confusion. I was amazed at her comment: “Susan, I didn’t notice any confusion at all; in fact, I was thinking that this was the most professional doctor’s office I have ever been in. I was thinking I could use your organizational skills in my office.”

Which brings me to the conclusion of this article. When your staff is trained and you have good procedures, even when you think you look inefficient, others don’t notice at all. So, just keep on keepin’ on and do whatever it takes. And, what ever it takes… train your staff. A thriving practice can’t be far behind!