The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

Who are the first 5 people I need to hire at my new medical practice?

Finding the right team is a key part of building and sustaining any business, especially an independent practice. Here’s who to hire first — and how to identify qualified candidates.

Graphic depicting strategies to hire medical staff

At a Glance

  • Assemble a skilled medical team including a practice manager, receptionist, nurse, biller, and medical assistant. Prioritize hiring a competent practice manager first to handle operations.
  • Seek candidates with strong problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, adaptability, and technology proficiency. Medical knowledge is ideal but you can train administrative staff.
  • Ask interview questions to assess skills and experience related to the role, including handling stress, billing processes, privacy, task management, teamwork, and patient care scenarios. Look for dedication, compassion, and communication abilities.

Anyone who has ever spent time in a busy hospital unit knows that the right team can make even the most difficult and stressful healthcare environment a fun and rewarding place to work. The same holds true for independent practices. Find the first 5 medical staff you need to hire for your new office, plus 9 effective questions to ask candidates in an interview, below.

Finding the right medical staff for your new office

Just like in a hospital, providing excellent care to patients in an independent practice depends on putting together a cross-disciplinary team of people with unique skill sets who are all committed to the same goal.

As a provider, your expertise lies in providing exceptional clinical care to patients. But starting a successful practice requires more than just medical knowledge, so it’s imperative to find front-office staff members who have skills and experience to complement your own.

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Practice manager: The backbone of your practice

A practice manager should be one of the first medical staff you hire, especially if you’ve never run a private office before.

A good practice manager is like the air traffic controller at a busy airport; without them, things quickly fall apart. They oversee day-to-day operations to ensure smooth clinical and administrative functioning, coordination, and efficiency. Their duties can include patient scheduling, billing and insurance, inventory management, vendor relationships, regulatory compliance, and staff supervision.

Your practice manager also acts as a liaison between you and other physicians, staff, and external stakeholders. They facilitate communication and promote teamwork. They also maintain positive relationships with healthcare professionals, insurance providers, and community organizations — as well as with local, regional, and national societies. Practice managers also ensure you stay on top of administrative duties and the healthcare marketplace.

Beyond organizational skills, seek someone with a problem-solving mindset and excellent interpersonal abilities. ”

An effective office manager must possess exceptional organizational skills. They manage multiple tasks, prioritize responsibilities, and maintain accurate records. Strong attention to detail is essential for handling patient information, scheduling, billing, and inventory management. A well-organized medical staff office manager can streamline operations and prevent costly errors.

Beyond organizational skills, seek someone with a problem-solving mindset and excellent interpersonal abilities. They must navigate the complex administrative landscape while fostering a positive and efficient work environment.

Certification programs for medical staff office administrators exist, so seek a candidate who has certification and training. Ask if they are willing to join national societies specifically for office administrators in your particular medical specialty. The best office administrators will keep up with the latest trends this way and communicate with other medical staff office managers to maximize and improve their practice.

Front desk receptionist: The friendly face of your practice

Your front desk receptionist is often the first point of contact for patients entering your practice. A friendly, compassionate, and organized receptionist creates a positive and welcoming environment and sets the tone for the entire patient experience. Their role extends beyond administrative tasks, like patient intake; they are the face of your practice and a patient’s first impression of your team.

A skilled receptionist will handle patient check-ins, appointment scheduling, and answer phone calls — often at the same time. So the right person should communicate well, multitask effectively, and remain calm under pressure.

Registered nurse: The patient advocate

As a doctor, you already know how important a competent and compassionate nurse is to providing excellent patient care. In an independent practice setting, a nurse plays a vital role in patient care coordination. They act as a bridge between you and your patients to maximize your time. They perform triage and conduct initial patient assessments, administer medications, assist with procedures, and coordinate with other specialties and resources to ensure your patients receive top-notch care.

Depending on your specialty and practice needs, it may or may not be necessary to hire someone with experience within your field. You may also choose to hire a licensed practice nurse (LP) instead of a registered nurse (RN).

When hiring any type of nurse, it is important to look for a strong clinical background, assessment and therapeutic communication skills, judgment, and passion for patient well-being. ”

However, when hiring any type of nurse, it is important to look for a strong clinical background, assessment and therapeutic communication skills, judgment, and passion for patient well-being. They should be knowledgeable, adaptable, and capable of handling a range of patient needs. A great nurse not only enhances patient care but also offers valuable support to you as a physician.

Medical biller: The financial magician

Navigating the complex world of medical billing and insurance is not easy, so it’s important to find an experienced medical biller who can help you navigate claims processing. This indispensable team member ensures that your practice receives proper reimbursement for services rendered, streamlining your revenue cycle.

A competent medical biller should have a deep understanding of medical coding, insurance regulations, and billing procedures — or how to use your electronic medical health system for claims processing. They handle claims submissions, resolve payment issues, and communicate with insurance companies. By keeping your practice’s financial records in order, your biller will allow you to focus on patient care.

When hiring a medical biller, seek someone with relevant experience, strong attention to detail, and exceptional problem-solving skills. They should be up-to-date with industry changes and possess a high level of accuracy to prevent billing errors and optimize revenue.

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Medical assistant: The versatile team player

A medical assistant (MA) can be an invaluable asset to any medical practice by providing essential support to both the clinical and administrative aspects of your practice, ensuring smooth operations and efficient patient care.

Medical assistants perform various tasks, including taking patient histories, preparing examination rooms, assisting with procedures, and performing basic lab tests. They help to provide a seamless experience for patients and support other medical staff in the office in delivering high-quality care.

When hiring a medical assistant, seek candidates with a strong clinical background, excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to adapt quickly. ”

When hiring a medical assistant, seek candidates with a strong clinical background, excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to adapt quickly. Their versatility and willingness to take on multiple roles make them an indispensable part of the medical staff in your office.

Key considerations when hiring medical staff for your new office

Success requires assembling a skilled and dedicated team of medical staff, but don’t worry if your practice doesn’t have the revenue to hire all 5 of these positions immediately.

Initially, determine if you are able to handle all the clinical functions and start by hiring a practice manager to take on all the administrative and scheduling tasks. As your practice grows, consider adding more employees on a part-time basis, as your budget allows.

For instance, if you plan to perform in-office procedures that require clinical assistance, schedule those appointments for a specific day of the week and then hire a part-time RN or MA for that day. Similarly, you can also find a part-time medical biller who is willing to work a few hours per week.

Do administrative employees need medical knowledge?

Hiring administrative staff with medical knowledge or experience might be ideal, but it’s not always possible. So at the very least, make sure that you hire medical staff who are willing to learn and aren’t put off by a medical setting.

Familiarity with terminology, regulations, billing, and procedures will help your employees navigate working in a medical practice and prepare them to collaborate effectively with other healthcare professionals, so prioritize this type of training during your onboarding process.

Since administrative staff will interact with patients before they ever enter the exam room, they can help enhance patient care and safety. Teach administrative staff about your patient population, common disease processes that you evaluate and treat, and important signs to watch for that might indicate that a patient needs to be seen immediately.

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Ensure staff members have the necessary certifications

Make sure that every member of your staff is BLS certified, that your clinical team is ALS certified if necessary, and that everyone on your team understands their role in the event of an emergency.

Practice different types of drills with your whole team for different scenarios and make sure that everyone knows how to use an AED or what to do during a diabetic emergency, seizure, or stroke. Designate who will call 911 in the event of an emergency and practice the type of concise report that you’d give a dispatcher.

Practice different types of drills with your whole team for different scenarios. ”

Train your staff on how to access translation services for non-English speakers and how to work with patients with impaired vision, hearing, or mobility with respect and care. Empower them to come to you or another member of the clinical team any time they are concerned about a patient in the waiting room.

Remember, the success of your medical practice does not depend solely on your medical expertise but also on the strength and commitment of your team. Invest time and effort in finding the right individuals who share your vision and passion and train them to help you provide excellent healthcare. Together, you can create a thriving medical practice that positively impacts the lives of your patients and the health of your community.

What skills should I look for when hiring for my medical practice?

Unexpected challenges will arise at your practice, so it’s important to seek people who demonstrate strong problem-solving abilities. They should be resourceful, be adaptable, think critically to find solutions, and demonstrate sound reasoning and judgment.

Finding clinical and administrative employees who take a proactive approach to troubleshooting issues will help to maintain the efficiency and productivity of your practice and reduce the number of administrative fires with which you have to deal.

Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are vital in a private practice and it’s imperative to find people who are approachable, friendly, and able to effectively communicate with people from many backgrounds. They should be adept at resolving conflicts, promoting teamwork, and maintaining a positive work environment.

In today’s digital age, technology proficiency is increasingly important for working in a private medical practice. Employees should be comfortable working with and learning new practice management software, electronic health records (EHRs), and other digital tools used in medical practices.

9 questions to ask when interviewing candidates

Haven’t ever interviewed or hired someone before? Don’t worry. Here’s a list of 9 questions to help you determine if you’ve found the right candidate to hire for your new medical practice — and what to pay attention to when they answer.

1. What makes you different from other candidates and qualifies you for this position?

As the candidate highlights their background and expertise, note any relevant professional or educational experiences that indicate that they have the skills you’re looking for.

Note any relevant professional or educational experiences that indicate that candidates have the skills you’re looking for. ”

For instance, if a former high school teacher with no medical background applies for a front desk position, listen carefully to how they describe their experience. Do they mention being able to effectively manage a classroom full of teenagers or describe knowing how to defuse tense situations with parents? These are skills that would translate well to working in a medical practice.

2. Describe an example of a high-stress situation you’ve encountered in a medical setting. How did you handle it?

Give the candidate an opportunity to describe a high-stress situation that they’ve been involved in and look for evidence that they remain calm and composed under pressure.

3. Describe your experience with medical billing and insurance procedures. Why should we hire you instead of an outside billing company? What is your proficiency and experience with CPT, ICD-10, and HCPCS coding systems?

For roles that involve billing, it’s imperative to understand the candidate’s familiarity with medical billing and insurance processes. Try to gain a sense of how the candidate stays updated with changes in medical billing regulations and coding guidelines and what steps they take to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

It’s also a good idea to ask the candidate if they’ve ever encountered any issues of fraudulent medical billing and how they handled the situation.

4. How well do you understand HIPAA? How do you ensure patient confidentiality and privacy?

The candidate should be knowledgeable about and committed to patient privacy and confidentiality, which is a critical aspect of working in private practice.

5. How do you prioritize and manage multiple tasks or competing deadlines?

In a fast-paced medical practice, time management and prioritization skills are vital to keeping workflows moving. Listen for evidence that the candidate knows how to handle the demands of the role and understands how to balance efficiency with the need to be thorough and detail-oriented in order to deliver exceptional patient care.

6. Describe a challenging situation you encountered at work and how you resolved it. What did you learn from this situation? How would you avert situations like this in the future?

Assess the candidate’s ability to navigate complex situations with good communication skills and judgment. Note any evidence that they worked with all involved parties to resolve the situation.

7. How do you approach teamwork and collaboration in a healthcare setting? Are you comfortable with being a leader? How do you handle constructive feedback?

In a new independent practice, collaboration is key. Assess the candidate’s ability to work well with others and contribute to a positive team dynamic.

Assess the candidate’s ability to work well with others and contribute to a positive team dynamic. ”

Determine if they are willing to perform duties outside the normal functions of their role to ensure that the practice can function smoothly. For instance, is a billing position candidate willing to help clean exam rooms if the practice is busy? Is the medical assistant willing to cover the front desk during the receptionist’s break?

8. Describe a time when you went above and beyond to provide exceptional patient care.

Note the candidate’s dedication to patient care and their willingness to go the extra mile. Stories of life-saving heroics are wonderful. But so are examples of connecting patients to social services or working with a patient to get a prescription filled after it was denied by insurance.

9. Describe your most difficult patient encounter and explain how you handled it.

Dealing with challenging patients is a reality in healthcare — and the repercussions of not handling a difficult patient situation tactfully can be painful. Evaluate the candidate’s ability to handle tense or complex situations with empathy, professionalism, and effective communication that starts by truly listening to the patient’s concerns.

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Written by

Kate Smith, RN, BSN

Kate Smith is a registered nurse with extensive experience caring for patients in urban emergency departments, private practices, in-home hospice settings, and on cruise ships around the world. She is also a writer who is passionate about the medical field, and endeavors to approach topics in ways that give readers a new perspective.

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