Staffing your New Medical Practice: Finding the Right People at the Right Price

Kristen Campbell
Apr. 9, 2020
10-minute read

As a new medical practice owner, the staff you choose today will be the foundation of your business for years to come. Hiring the right people can impact the culture in your workplace, the administrative accuracy of your records, and the level of customer service your patients receive – so it’s in your best interest to choose wisely!

Here are some things to keep in mind when finding the right medical practice staff:

1. Budget

The first thing to think about when planning for your new medical practice’s staff is your budget. Staff that are more highly qualified, come with great references, and have long track records at their previous employer, could be more reliable hires, but will likely expect more in the long term in terms of salary and benefits. Hiring less experienced staff may help with your budget, but may take more training and experience before they can handle the role. As a new business owner, your job is to find the right balance between the two. This will depend on the role you are hiring for, the amount of involvement you have in the business, and the responsibilities that you will expect them to handle.

Start by considering the roles you need, and the amount of financial flexibility you will have to hire within these roles. For example, having a good bookkeeper will be crucial if you want to fulfill the promises made to your lenders, prepare for tax season, and pay your other employees. Making sure you have a great accountant should be one of the first decisions you make, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a full time role. For a small office, if you have a great system to handle your billing and you handle your payables yourself, you may only need an accountant in once a month to put everything into your accounting software, do your bank reconciliations, and set up payroll. However, if you want to see lots of patients you will need a full time receptionist to schedule them, and someone with lots of experience can help you set up systems and processes that you might have overlooked. If you’re on a tight budget, paying more for an experienced receptionist and hiring an accountant part-time might be the most cost efficient solution for your business.

2. Training and education

If you’re brand new to opening your new medical practice and you want to focus on seeing more patients, think about the tasks you will need to delegate and the amount of time you are willing to invest into professional development. Roles like administrators, bookkeepers, and receptionists will require more on the job training than hiring new doctors or medical technicians, who do most of their training in school. If you decide to choose less experienced staff, how much time are you willing to put into their professional development? What are your expectations from your employees, and when can you reasonably expect these needs to be met? Are you going to be a ‘hands on’ business owner, interested in getting every aspect of your medical practice to your specifications, or are you more interested in focusing on your patients and your own professional development?

There is no right answer, but whichever you choose, there is a solution. If you enjoy teaching and training on the job, you might hire medical staff with lots of education but little experience. If you like the business side of things, you might keep your accounting staff lighter and do more of the administrative upkeep yourself. Whichever route you go, make sure you run it by the other doctors in your practice so that everyone is on the same page, since open communication will be crucial for your hiring process.

3. Cultural fit

Creating a great corporate culture isn’t just for small businesses – your medical practice staff will be working together for plenty of years to come, so it’s important to make sure it’s a solid fit. Connect with the other doctors in your practice to come up with some values to guide your hiring decisions – values like creativity, compassion, or customer service will help you create a vision for your new business and the staff you hope to hire. Hiring based on this vision will help you find employees that work well together and can provide a better environment for your patients.

If you have multiple doctors at your practice, you might have a different administrator assigned to each one. Staff isn’t one size fits all, and you should consider personality fit – an excellent but fastidious administrator might be a bad choice when paired with a physician who is laid back about details. Asking both structured and unstructured questions during your interview will help you find the best fit and prevent any unexpected problems from popping up. If you’re hiring on behalf of one of the other physicians in your practice, getting them involved in the hiring decision will also help with this fit.

4. Timeframe

When are you looking to open the doors of your new medical practice? If you have a short time frame and need someone quickly, it may be best to go through a hiring agency or through referrals from another practice. You’ll still need to make sure the person you hire is a great fit, but an agency or referral will have already vetted some of the professional qualifications you need. If you have a longer run-up to the opening of your new medical practice, you can afford to be choosier and save money on staffing.

The other thing to consider when looking at the timeframe of your new medical practice is your business plan. Where do you plan to be in five years? How many staff will you need to support that? It may not make sense to hire multiple administrators when you don’t have many patients yet, but if you’re planning to expand your billing, it’s good to get ready – you want to have enough staff on hand to ensure you can handle the level of patients you expect in the future, otherwise you risk overworking your existing employees or hiring someone who isn’t a good fit because you are in a hurry.

5. Responsibilities & Staff to Hire

Getting everyone on the same page about the roles you need to hire is a good first step in setting up your medical practice staff. Who do you need to hire, and within that, what will their role look like? If you’re hiring an administrator, will they be handling billing, or will it be the responsibility of each physician to handle their own? Are all the physicians in your practice happy with this?

Make a list of all that is involved in seeing each patient – from booking to billing – and take a look at what parts of it you want to delegate. Some physicians might be okay with handling most of the process themselves to keep c
osts down, while others might consider it an administrative headache. Deciding on what you want to delegate to your new employees will give you a better idea of the role you’re actually hiring for, and the staff that will best meet this need.

Here are some positions you may require for your medical practice and their average salary:

  • Receptionist – 30-40k per year

  • Medical office manager – 50-70k per year

  • Medical office administrator/billing staff – 20-30k per year

  • Bookkeeper – 30-50k per year

  • Payroll manager – 60-80k per year

  • Nurse – 50-80k per year

When you have some idea of what the role will require, collaborate with the other physicians in your practice to describe your idea hire – what skills do they have? How much education? What is their personality like? All of these questions will help to shape the picture of your ideal hire, and make it easier to find someone who is a perfect fit. Remember that sometimes adjustments are necessary – being too rigid on these requirements might make you miss out on great candidates. This might go back to training and education: if you have an ideal candidate in every other way but they are missing your educational requirements, paying for them to upgrade their skills might actually be cheaper than hiring someone else for the role.

6. Retention

By opening your medical practice you’ll be hoping that you’ll be operating for years to come, which means you probably want long-term staff working there too. Even more than in other industries, it is especially important to keep and retain medical practice staff – it helps provide great stability for your patients, creates an ‘institutional memory’ of systems and policies in your practice, and establishes a long-term culture.  What can you offer your staff to keep them with you long term?

Even if you’re trying to stick to a smaller budget, there are plenty of policies you can put in place to keep and retain your employees. Offering profit sharing plans, incentives for meeting productivity goals, bonuses for long-term employment milestones, or paying for education and training could be the difference between keeping your best employees or needing to re-hire. Intangible factors, like a friendly work environment or a great work-life balance can also be the difference between a long term hire and a short one. Whichever you choose, your medical practice staff will be the backbone of your practice for years to come.

Making the right decisions now will help you in the long term, not just professionally – your staff will become your work family, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s a great one.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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