Dr. Werschler recently hired an employee specifically for a multifunctional role: Within 6 to 12 months, she will have been trained in most major positions, including check-in and checkout. Aside from that, he approaches the “who” of cross training a little less formally and bases it on what his employees may be interested in. “We often just ask what they’d like to take on, but sometimes employees approach us and say, for example, they wouldn’t mind working over in the clinic one day a week to get a break from cosmetic patients,” he says.
He also finds that more formal cross training can overlap with compliance training, such as HIPAA, CLIA, OSHA, blood-borne pathogens and so forth, depending on state laws.
Cautions and Considerations
There are hazards to avoid when implementing a cross training program in your practice. As employees take on multiple roles, they may become overwhelmed with the increase in responsibilities. Keeping an eye on staff scheduling and maintaining communication with your team can go a long way toward making sure everyone has time to do their jobs well. “Sometimes an employee may not have enough time to do every task, or it’s not done in a consistent way—you must be sure to get everybody on the same page,” says Dr. Casello. “I find that every once in a while, it helps to reiterate that we’re a team and we all have to do our part.”
There may also be roadblocks in terms of skill level. Specialized skills and knowledge may not be transferrable to other staff members, so look at licensing, certifications and also natural abilities when considering which employees can be cross trained for each position. “There can be a tendency to assume that everyone is interchangeable and has knowledge and skills that they simply do not,” says Keegan. “If cross training is adopted, it is important to still recognize and consider the specialized skill levels of employees.”
Practices that implement cross training must take care to maintain clear lines in terms of the specific job duties for each position. “This is a real problem in a practice. Say the checkout person is on vacation or suddenly has to move away. Their replacement or substitute may not know all the nuances of the former employees’ added responsibilities,” says Morley. “Too many people without clear lines of demarcation means the office risks something critical not getting done or even duplication of efforts, which is wasted time and money. A manager must be really clear on who owns each responsibility and who is trained to provide backup.”
Laura Beliz is the associate editor of MedEsthetics.
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