Similar to penalty play in lacrosse or hockey, you need to have a strategy for dealing with being a team member short. Your staff members get sick from time to time. They also need and deserve time off for vacation. However the absence of even a single employee has a significant impact in most eye care practices.
Advance planning for the inevitable can make the best of an otherwise bad situation. Here’s how you build a game plan to handle it. For each of your employees, make a list of the problems that would likely result from their absence and devise a mitigation plan. When planning, place a high priority on maintaining the quality of the patient experience. Having a strategy to handle staff absences not only allows you to deliver consistent care, but also eases the burden on the rest of the staff.
Being Prepared for Being Short-Staffed
- Cross-train staff so there are at least 2 staff members who can perform each of your most critical functions – particularly the functions without which the patient experience would suffer.
- Consider the effect being short-staffed has on those who are covering for the absent employee and decide what functions could be temporarily eliminated or delayed.
- Make sure your procedural manual is up to date for the functions each employee performs so others who assume those functions have guidance.
- Depending on the size of your staff, allow only one employee (or one employee in each department) to take vacation at a time. Make vacation requests available each year on a first-come, first-served basis beginning the first business day of each year. In the event of conflicts, alternate the employee that is granted the desired vacation each year. Hang a full-year calendar in the staff break room and keep it updated with approved vacations so all staff members are informed.
Pro Tip: Encourage staff members to consider taking vacation at the same time that one of the providers will be away from the office. Often staff in a small practice are willing to oblige during this time when less staff is needed. This is also a time when it may be appropriate for more than one staff member to be on vacation without affecting the business.