There are several situations in a dental practice that are bone-chilling; missing lab work, running way too late for a demanding patient…and getting the early morning phone call from an unwell nurse needing a sick-day.
The plan to accommodate the changes to the coming day is usually born through panic and desperation. You start shooting off phone calls to team members and temp agencies while slowly formulating a backup plan in case no-one can fill the unwell nurses’ place.
But there is a better way…
“Begin with the end in mind” is the second habit in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The ‘end’ for a dental practice is to create a productive, efficient and stress-free environment. This requires a full team. Being down a team-member makes for a stressful day and will have a negative impact on the efficiency, and therefore productivity, of the day.
The solution is a temp nurse and there is a strategy you can adopt to help assure that a temp nurse will be a reliable and useful option when a team-member is away at short notice. The following is what I discovered to be greatly successful during my ten years of practice ownership.
My intention was to be the number one priority for the temp agencies to want to please and be the number one practice that temp nurses want to work in.
I wanted to remove all barriers to getting a nurse placed with us when we needed one.
Develop strong rapport with the agencies.
Temp agencies are often dealing with practices that appear demanding due to their moment of panic. Instead, be extremely pleasant to deal with. Show understanding of the pressures they are under and appreciative of every effort they extend to you.
Welcome the temp nurse for the angel that she is in that moment in time.
This person will transform your day from chaotic to calm. Make efforts as a whole team to welcome temp nurses into your practice enthusiastically. Create a friendly and warm environment so they will be excited to return when you next need someone to help out.
Design a Temp Nurse Guide.
Temp nurses develop great skills to adapt to their ever-changing working situations. Help them in this process by designing a guide that details in simple terms what they need to know.
- Parking availability
- Where to keep their belongings
- Where to change into their uniform
- Break times
- Where to go to get lunch and where to eat
- How to find what treatments are being performed on each patient
- How to activate autoclave
- What gets barriers and what gets wiped with the appropriate solution
- Who to go to in case their surgery runs out of stock or instruments.
Communicate your expectations of the temp nurse effectively to her. She will be keen to help you as much as she is capable of doing.
Pay for early arrival.
If time allows, ask the temp nurse to arrive half an hour prior to the first patient. This will give her a chance to meet the whole team, check the layout of the surgery and steri-room, and study your Temp Nurse Guide.
Pay for travel time.
If there are no available temp nurses close by, tell the agency that you are happy to pay travel time for nurses who live farther away. Remember, the end goal is to have a full team. Don’t be concerned with an extra $100 expense when the cost of an inefficient, stressful and less-productive day can be much much more.
Being fully-staffed part of the day is better than none of the day.
Let the agency know that you will work with the nurse’s schedules of school drop-off and pick-ups. Having a temp nurse from 9:30am – 3:00pm is much more effective than having no nurse at all.
Pay the agency invoices immediately.
Be on the best professional terms possible with the agency. They will not keep placing nurses with you if they know they will need to chase you for their money.
Use agencies as a method of hiring new team members.
I always found that using temp nurses to fill an open nursing position was an ideal way to select the person who was the best fit for that position. Ask the agency to send different girls every couple of days and assess their clinical proficiency, teamwork ethic and customer service skills. Once you find a nurse your practice likes, let her know there is a position open. If she is eager to join your team, notify the agency and pay the permanent placement fee.
Paying the placement fee is a vital step that many practices try and avoid. However, all agencies are on the lookout for this display of unprofessional conduct and if they catch you out, they will not be inspired to place quality temps with you when you need them. Rest assured that any placement fee they charge will be cheap compared with the standard costs of recruitment, especially if you hire the wrong person.
Implementing a Temp Nurse Strategy in your practice will avoid the normal anxiety around team sick-days. And your team is then free to enjoy a productive, efficient and minimum-stress day.