Therapists leave, but hopefully not too often. Hopefully through steady management and sensitive mentoring, you, the private practice owner, have a bit of a vibe as to who will be sliding the envelope across the desk to you next. Many of the private practice owners I coach report a trend for staff resignations during November and December. This is probably the best ‘worst time’ for losing a valued team member as it provides some planning, recruitment and on boarding time. The manager’s mission is to implement great exiting procedures that benefit everybody, the therapist, workmates, parents and clients. Here are suggestions for how to review your exit policy and procedures in order to exit the staff in the best way possible.
So here’s the big question … Who has a current exit policy and procedure? For those who didn’t shout “Me!” then I strongly suggest that you take the next presenting opportunity to write one up, work through it collaboratively and then finalise it for future references. And now to buy sticky notes and manage the exiting period.
Secure a list of every single client that the therapists has worked with during the past 12 months. This should be an easy tasks via your Practice Management System. For all non-active clients, the therapist needs to check that each and every file is correctly listed as archived or due for review. Fingers crossed that they have been managing their client files beautifully and that this isn’t an onerous task. Mental note to management self, make sure the rest of the team are a-top their non-active clients.
Work with the therapist to identify those clients who are due to finish in the near future or who may well chose to finish given that their therapist is leaving. Could these clients join a paired session or a group as an alternative? These clients will require a personal phone call from the therapist, followed up by a letter stating the next steps. Many practices put clients on a review program and will get back in touch after an agreed time period, such as 4 weeks, 8 weeks or 12 weeks. Therapist or admin to action this in the practice management software or equivalent. Done.
Those clients who require hand over to a new therapists are the VIPs. It’s ideal if a new therapist can be allocated immediately and can attend one, maybe more handover therapy sessions. Even with this dreamy scenario, handover should be succinct with parents and stakeholder actively involved.
A new therapist isn’t always on hand to pick up clients. I hear that there is a repeating tendency for the business owner to pick up the slack and take on stranded clients. This tends to lead to the clinician Vs manager balance being disrupted. Sound familiar? Perhaps this is the topic of another blog?
Private Practice owners, always have your adverts for Seek and professional publications ready to go at any time of the day or night. There is also value in having a section on your website requesting enquiries for clinicians keen to join the team. Message this via newsletters and social media. I encourage you to speak with every single expression of interest that you receive.
Write a checklist of every single task that the exiting therapist needs to complete. Meet with them regularly, a couple of times per week if necessary, to ensure steady progress through this list. Permission to micro manage as required. This checklist is the basis of your exit procedures and should be formally written up.
In addition build a checklist for your own management tasks. This too needs to be written up as a part of the exit procedures. It will include a wide range of tasks.
- Removing therapist(s) from access to cloud based business applications, practice management software, email, online calendars after a certain date.
- Deleting the clinicians name from promotional materials including the website, business cards, social media etc.
- List all the equipment that has been on loan to the therapists and clients, chase it all up and check it off.
- Keys need to be returned and personal security codes cancelled.
- Every single piece of paper and every single email need to be filed in accordance with standard procedures. Check that all session notes are written and filed. Provide the therapist with a proforma of the brief therapy summary you want written up. Audit all files.
- Set up a call divert on the mobile phone to the main office number and similarly a forward on all email on to admin. Update voicemail message.
- Final payments will need to be calculated and made possibly out of the usual payment cycle.
- Request that all client data is removed from mobile phones, iPads and personal computers.
- And the list goes on, and on …
Do not avoid the difficult conversation with the contracted or employed therapists about poaching clients. The engagement of services contract should contain firm guidelines about this. Exiting a practice is the time for professional ethics and respect to shine brightly. Too many private practice owners have stories to tell of therapists moving on to their own start up taking clients and Intellectual Property (IP) with them. Do it.
I hope that you conduct an exit interview. This too, should be a document from your Policy and Procedures Manual. The best part of an exit interview is the opportunity to wholeheartedly thank the staff member for the brilliant way they have represented you and your company and served your clients. It is also a chance for feedback about what could be done differently both as a manager and as a business. Record and act on the suggestions that arise.
The therapist and management checklists you develop during the exiting staff are the basis of your future exit policy and procedure. You need to have something in place and it will be forever evolving. So make a start. As I often say, develop a system, test it out, adjust it, write it up and then use it.