By: Jason Newmark, Vice President of Diagnostic Services, Baystate Medical Center
Pillar #2: Staffing
To assist in staffing efforts, let’s all agree that we are not alone. Instead, we have two tremendous resources right in front of us: the AHRA and our many VENDOR partners.
With respect to AHRA, now is the time to (a) become even more active members and to take full advantage of all the resources AHRA has to offer, (b) to network, network, network, and (c) to share success stories and all ideas to help each other augment our staff management skills and plans.
With respect to VENDOR partners, now is the time to seek innovative ways to align and work even more closely together, above and beyond just equipment purchases or leases.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAFFING MANAGEMENT
Without question and regardless of setting, the essential ingredient to any successful imaging services operation is staffing. Specifically staffing with enough well-trained, productive, and fully engaged individuals. Today, imaging services providers require assistance to optimize staff management plans and needs. Vendor partners are uniquely positioned to adjust their traditionally more “sales focus” to more collaborative and consultative services to support staffing solutions.
We can all attest that having the latest and greatest technology and updated space with modern interior design with enhanced lighting is more than welcome. However, without an effective and appropriately staffed team, the best equipment and space become just that, equipment, and space.
The staff, the team, is what makes the operation truly successful. The staff leads direct patient interactions, manages the day-to-day workflows, operates the equipment, and establishes our imaging services. All these components are ultimately reflected in our organizations’ reputation. Paraphrasing one of Maya Angelou’s (poet and civil rights activist) most famous quotes, ”…patients, their families, and the referring providers will likely forget what the space and the equipment looked like, but they will never forget how the staff made them feel.“
As medical imaging management leaders, our absolute top priority must be to manage and support our staff effectively. But this is not as easy as it may seem, especially, over the last year, working through the impacts of the pandemic on FMLAs, vacancies, and our ability to retain and find adequate staffing support.
STAFFING MANAGEMENT ENHANCEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The reality today is that we need to address our staffing strategies in new and even unconventional ways — “thinking-outside-the-box,” as many might say. We have a chance and, quite frankly, the obligation to change the very foundation of how we attract, onboard, and develop our current and future staff. These efforts are the key to our ability to successfully provide imaging services support to our providers and our patients.
The focus of these efforts should be broad; however, at a minimum, I believe we should focus on the following:
- Reassessment of what we and our staff value most about careers in medical imaging to help us develop better recruitment and retention strategies
- Creation and implementation of strategies to promote the value of a career in imaging services (to attract future candidates and re-inspire current staff)
- Review of best practices for recruitment and onboarding of staff
- Enhancement and development of programs to encourage/support the continued growth of staff’s technical and non-technical skills (teamwork, communication, conflict resolution, patient experience, etc.)
- Identification and implementation of best practices regarding optimal workflows to improve and support staff and patient/referrer experiences and drive maximum productivity
- Development of enhanced staffing to capacity models and tools to ensure the most appropriate number and mix of staff for all sites and shifts.
VENDOR PARTNERSHIP CONSIDERATIONS
To further expand upon strategies to collaborate more broadly with our vendor partners, let me propose focusing on three specific areas, explained in more detail below.
1. Technical Training and Support
Imaging services providers need to provide staff with access to continuing education and exposure to best practices outside of their organizations. However, providers are often challenged to send staff to off-site training or identify qualified agencies to provide training or dedicate internal resources for training support in any meaningful and consistent capacity. This relates to both technical and non-technical training. Overall, better trained and well-supported staff will lead to better technology use, which will lead to better patient outcomes. Staff engagement will result in stronger vendor relationships, impacting future purchases from vendors. This is a win-win reality all around.
2. Networking and Staffing Resources Support
It has become increasingly challenging throughout the pandemic to find and secure enough staffing resources. This has been especially true in my organization regarding CT technologists with experience in a high volume, Level I trauma center, who are willing to work 3rd shift and weekends. Across the country, we are continuing to see more experienced staff choosing early retirements (less stress and exposure to COVID-19), increased numbers of people out on extended and unplanned leaves (medical, FMLA, other), and others leaving for higher-paying traveler positions (staffing agencies have been aggressive with recruitment efforts in our region). These factors, combined, cause a critical lack of available staff. As a result, many organizations have been forced to reduce or temporarily close services. Others are redeploying staff to areas with the most critical needs (e.g., outpatient technologists redeployed to inpatient settings). And, some have been forced to furlough and even lay off a portion of their staff. The remaining staff is worried about the stability of their own roles, often working short-staffed and picking up extra shifts (working over 60+ hours a week!). Kudos to these individuals who are stepping up; they are the true heroes of the past 9+ months. However, these actions are not sustainable going forward.
3. Professional Development
Another critical focus of imaging management leaders today is developing the leadership skills of those “up and coming” staff and their own. This includes developing basic skills (e.g., human resources, quality management, performance improvement, capital, and asset management) to more advanced skills (e.g., new business financial modeling, strategic planning, and overall, more executive presence). Many organizations have their homegrown programs and dedicated staff (my organization has the ‘Professional and Organizational Development Team’), but many do not. Further, many organizations with programs have chosen to reduce these services or close them entirely during the pandemic and possibly longer. Additionally, some organizations have never supported staff to join national organizations or attend off-site training. Others who have provided support in the past now have reduced their budgets and can no longer assist staff in these pursuits. These issues have all significantly reduced staff’s access to leadership development offerings.
Note: I acknowledge that there are more virtual options these days. However, staff still need to be provided with time to attend (which may be challenging with staffing shortages), and some may need financial support to attend or join associations, as well.
Ensuring that our imaging services operations have enough well-trained, productive, and fully engaged staff is the most critical priority for any medical imaging leader today. I would also suggest supporting their client’s staff management efforts should be one of our vendors’ most important priorities. Without appropriate staffing levels or sound strategies to support our staff and future imaging leaders’ growth and development, imaging services providers will be challenged to provide quality imaging services, as well as to garner support from their parent organizations for investments in new technologies. Medical imaging leaders are positioned to change their perception of vendors from simply suppliers of technology to real partners for new, innovative, and expanded services to support enhanced staffing management and development.
As an added summary to each article in our Value Model series, we will close with three practical tips that you should consider if you’d like to put these ideas into immediate action. We call this section the ‘Vendor Connection
By: Rich Dewit, IIC Chair, Head of US Sales & Marketing, Radiology, Bayer; and Terry Bucknall, Chair, AHRA Education Foundation
1. TECHNICAL TRAINING AND SUPPORT
Vendors have deep ‘benches’ of highly skilled technical staff because many in training roles came from Radiology suites as former technologists and imaging professionals. In addition, vendor organizations often have robust training resources, access to medical science teams, and exposure to best practices that reflect a Radiology network of community hospitals to academic centers and thought-leading healthcare systems across the country – potentially around the world. Consequently, your vendor partner may have a distinctive ‘niche’ where they can provide exceptional added value depending on your needs. A vendor partnership looks beyond the traditional training of new equipment to more consistent and broad-based offerings. Some areas to explore and ask for training and support could include:
- Technique and positioning, dose management, workflow, and protocol optimization, and safety practices
- Productivity metrics and staffing-to-capacity (resource allocation, capabilities assessment, etc.)
- Digital ‘on demand’ content (sometimes with continuing education credit) to develop or refresh skills, meet annual training goals, and support training for new staff
2. NETWORKING AND STAFFING RESOURCES SUPPORT
It’s easy to get stuck in the routine of always connecting with the same people or resources, especially when the demands of work are ever-present. Suppose your vendor partner has a national (and possibly global) reach and is actively involved in societies or industry initiatives. In that case, they may offer opportunities to help staff connect with imaging leaders to share perspectives and experiences. Possibilities might include participation in focus groups, sponsored networking events, or simply asking your vendor to help make connections with other imaging professionals to expand your network.
3. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
As stated above, any successful organization knows that having a highly trained and competent team is imperative. Job-specific competency building is foundational, but what about other areas? Many of the leading companies in our industry have looked beyond the traditional job-specific training model to timely themes such as building trust and collaboration, authentic leadership, and sharpening skills in general business. Is there anything to be learned from your vendor partner that could complement your efforts to continue your staff’s development? How about exploring an opportunity to build a tailored program in operational areas such as budgeting and financial planning or marketing of community outreach campaigns or thinking even bigger in leadership or career development? Many vendors have established sophisticated development programs for their staff, which provides a springboard for collaboration with imaging providers. Developing well-rounded leaders will lead to better-run imaging services, higher quality care, and better clinical, operational, and financial outcomes.
Bonus tip: Recognition!
Is there a unique person on your staff who embodies those things that make your imaging department great? In addition to celebrating that person in your organization, is there an opportunity to recognize this ‘star’ on a larger stage? Talk to your vendor partner about the possibilities of tapping into their ‘customer recognition’ platform. You may find an easy way to help the larger imaging community by sharing a success story about that special person on your staff.
Now is the time for imaging providers and vendors to align their expertise and resources around staff management and forge a new path forward together. Through enhanced collaboration, we can better promote imaging services’ value and inspire a new generation of radiology professionals. Together, we can better develop and support our current staff. Together, we can ensure the highest quality care and service to our patients and providers.
Asset Management, Productivity, Training and Advising, Information Source, Staffing, Competition
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Thank you for the informative article. Appreciate the concept of aligning imaging providers and vendors around staff management. Kudos!