If you’ve ever started a new job at an organization with a less-than-stellar orientation process, you know firsthand how important healthcare onboarding is to make new hires feel like valued team members and ensure that they can fulfill their roles with confidence.
Onboarding goes far beyond making new staff feel welcome, though. And it makes good business sense, too. According to Gallup research, only 12% of employees say that their organization does a good job with onboarding. At the same time, providing new hires with rich, comprehensive onboarding can limit employee turnover and increase employee engagement and satisfaction — which both impact your bottom line.
What is onboarding in the medical field?
Organizational leaders began to use the word “onboarding” in the early 1990s to refer to the act or process of orienting and training new employees, but it’s only been in the past decade that the term has really taken off.
While onboarding for a job in sales or IT might look different than onboarding in the medical field, the goal is the same: orienting new hires into practice workflows while helping them become familiar with their own role and responsibilities as well as the organization’s culture, policies, and procedures.
“For healthcare workers, a good onboarding program should also facilitate a smooth transition to working in a new clinical setting. ”
For healthcare workers, a good onboarding program should also facilitate a smooth transition to working in a new clinical setting. It should ensure that new hires have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to provide high-quality patient care and contribute effectively to the healthcare team.
Tip: Are you hiring your first employees for your new medical practice? Check out Tebra’s comprehensive guide to starting a medical practice for other can’t-miss tips.
Why is onboarding important in healthcare?
Since healthcare is subject to many different state and local regulations and compliance standards, there are also legal ramifications to skipping onboarding for new healthcare hires. Noncompliance with regulations can result in costly fines and, even worse, patient harm. So, incorporating compliance training into your clinical onboarding process is a key way to ensure that all employees stay on the right side of regulatory requirements and within their scope of practice.
What is the difference between onboarding and orientation?
It’s not uncommon to see the words “orientation” and “onboarding” used interchangeably, but there are subtle yet important differences.
Think of orientation as the formal introduction phase of starting a new job. It usually happens in the first few days or weeks and involves learning all the basic information about the company — things like policies, procedures, and what a specific job entails. During orientation, new hires often sit through presentations, fill out paperwork, and meet key people in the organization. It’s all about getting up to speed on the essentials.
Onboarding, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive process that goes beyond the initial orientation. The focus of onboarding is on making new hires feel like part of the team and the company culture.
Onboarding lasts longer than orientation, often several weeks or even months. During this time, new employees receive additional training, guidance, and support to help them succeed and should be a conversation, complete with ongoing check-ins, feedback sessions, and opportunities for growth and development.
Can I use the same onboarding process for different roles?
Many elements of the onboarding process can — and should — be standardized across different roles at your medical practice. This will help ensure consistency among staff and will cut down on the amount of work. Whenever possible, try to have multiple new hires start on the same day.
At the same time, each position may have unique considerations.
Here are some factors to consider for effective healthcare onboarding:
Job responsibilities: Different roles within a medical practice have specific responsibilities. Make sure to clearly outline each role so that new hires understand your workflows and processes.
Regulatory requirements: Onboarding should address the regulatory requirements to which every staff member is subject, as well as the additional requirements specific to each role, such as certifications, licenses, or compliance training. This will help ensure that all employees are properly qualified and compliant.
Job roles and responsibilities: Clinical roles, such as physicians, nurses, or medical assistants, involve direct patient care and require specialized clinical training. Non-clinical roles, such as administrative staff or billing specialists, involve administrative processes and systems training.
Documentation and policies: While general policies or human resources procedures apply across roles, there may also be role-specific documentation or policies. Include specific forms, protocols, or guidelines applicable to each role.
Level of autonomy and scope of practice: The autonomy and decision-making authority may vary across roles within a medical practice. Onboarding should clarify both and empower employees to make appropriate choices within their roles. This may involve different levels of training, access to resources, or communication channels.
Since one of the goals of onboarding is to foster a sense of team support and collaboration, make sure that your program includes cross-functional interactions. Having people in different roles connect will help to build a cohesive team and improve communication and collaboration within your practice.
5 steps to successfully onboard new hires at your medical practice
Remember, the ultimate goal is to create an onboarding program that combines warmth, information, and support and gives new employees the tools they need to succeed. By implementing the following 5 best practices, you can create an onboarding experience that makes your new hires feel welcomed, equipped, and empowered to contribute to your practice success.
Long before your new hires enter your practice, start to prepare for their arrival. If you don’t already have a detailed job description for each role, create one — especially if you’re early in the process of starting a new medical practice. Make sure that you have policies that address common HR issues, such as using vacation time, calling in sick, scheduling, and evaluations and performance reviews.
If you’re expanding or filling a new role, consider how adding additional people will impact current practice workflows and your office setup. Do you have a dedicated parking space and desk for the person? If you’re backfilling a position or replacing an outgoing employee, make sure that there isn’t a backlog of work waiting for the new hire.
Before the new employee’s first day, gather and organize all necessary paperwork, such as employment contracts, tax forms, and benefits information. Make sure that they have login credentials for your electronic health record (EHR) system, that their workspace is clean and prepared, and that their equipment functions appropriately.
It’s not mandatory, but if you have the budget, consider ordering lunch for new hires on the first day or taking them to a local restaurant to orient them to the community around your practice. Order catering that considers any allergies or make a reservation ahead of time.
Finally, send new hires confirmation of their start date and provide them with an agenda for at least the first day. If they will work clinically, be sure to note this so that they dress appropriately.
2. Introduce and orient
On the day that your new hires start to work for your practice, have someone on hand to make sure that they know where to park and can get into the building. Remind other staff members that new employees are joining the team and that the expectation is to be supportive and helpful to their new colleagues.
Begin the healthcare onboarding process with a comprehensive orientation session that provides an overview of your medical practice’s mission, values, policies, and procedures. Introduce the new employee to other team members and explain the organizational structure and to whom they will report. Familiarize them with the office layout, equipment and storage facilities, and safety protocols. Don’t forget to cover basics like where they can store personal belongings, the location of any restrooms, and how to use the microwave in the break room.
Be sure to sign paperwork and build in plenty of time for questions.
3. Train and educate
Once you’ve covered the policies and procedures that apply to all staff members, it’s time to start providing differentiated training and education to make sure that new hires perform their job duties according to your expectations.
Remember, just because clinical staff have a certain license or experience doesn’t mean that they will do things exactly your way. Clearly outline all expectations around medical treatments, procedures, order sets, medication administration, and charting. Let them know that this time is dedicated to making sure that they are comfortable in their new role, particularly if your speciality is new to them or if you use any advanced medical technology or equipment with which they are unfamiliar.
For non-clinical staff, use this time to provide training on any EHR or billing platforms. Consider asking them to shadow staff members with other roles so they can understand workflows and cross-function procedures.
4. Mentor and support
Assigning a mentor or buddy to new hires is a great way to provide peer-to-peer guidance. This support can extend through the medical onboarding process and their first week, months, and even year with your practice.
When assigning a mentor or buddy, first confirm that they are willing and able to train and guide new hires. Outline that their role is to answer questions, provide insight into practice culture, and generally assist with integration.
Be clear that the mentor or buddy role doesn’t include any supervisory or managerial oversight, simply peer-to-peer support. Encourage staff to take their buddy out for lunch or coffee on the company from time to time. Not only will this help to build positive staff relationships, it offers space for check-ins so that mentors can ensure a smooth transition and address any concerns or challenges before they become larger issues.
During the healthcare onboarding process, you can’t over communicate. Establish regular check-ins and provide casual, ongoing feedback to give the new employee a sense of their progress and nip any issues in the bud.
Not only does this set a standard for open communication and enable real-time adjustments to training or responsibilities, it also encourages new hires to share their experiences, suggestions, and concerns. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement and engagement within your practice.
By following these key steps, you can ensure that your new employees feel supported, well-prepared, and ready to help your practice and its patients thrive.
Healthcare onboarding new hire checklist
Refer to this handy list when onboarding new hires at your medical practice.
Introduction to the practice
- Practice overview, including brief history, patient population, and organizational structure
- Expectations about practice values and culture
- Organizational chart with roles and responsibilities
New employee paperwork
- W-4 and state tax forms
- I-9 form
- Employee handbook
Benefits and compensation
- Health, life, disability insurance
- Retirement benefits
- HSA or FSA
- Pay procedures/direct deposit sign up
- Salary increase/performance review process
- Paid and unpaid leave
- Vacation scheduling and call-out procedures
- Computer username and password
- Keys/access card
- ID badge
- Mail (incoming and outgoing)
- Supplies and restocking
Review key policies
- Vacation and sick leave
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)/leave of absence
- Dress code
- Personal conduct standards/social media policy
- Injury reporting
- Emergency procedures
- E-mail and Internet usage
Introductions and tours
- Department staff and key personnel
- Facility tour, including:
- Lockers or space for personal belongings
- Personal workspace
- Copy centers, printers, fax machines
- Bulletin board
- Clinical and office supplies
- Break room
- Coffee machine and microwave
- Water coolers
- Emergency exits