Hiring For the Graveyard Shift
Here’s how to avoid bringing a life-force deficient associate into your practice and keep your graveyard-shift team functioning at its best.
For those of us creatures of the night who thrive on a moonlit drive into work, who don’t mind having their first cup of coffee with dinner and who delight in getting their professional thrills while the rest of the working world sleeps, the emergency clinic beckons!
Emergency practice has all the great qualities of daytime practice with the additional delights of interesting critical care cases and clients who appreciate the fact that someone is actually awake when Fido decides to eat his favorite squeaky toy whole. Not to mention a unique support staff that finds that general practice just isn’t a wild enough ride for them either! This being said, although you’re likely to find a wide range of personality types on the graveyard shift, the one character that will always be a detriment to your emergency practice team is the walking dead, also known as the zombie! Here’s how to avoid bringing one of these life-force deficient associates into your practice and keep your team functioning optimally.
First, how do we recognize a potential zombie by their resume? We all agree that a love for critical care is an essential element in choosing an associate for our emergency practice. Unfortunately, this passion is not enough to make your new associate a perfect addition to your team. Here are a few questions you should be asking yourself as you browse the resumes that cross your desk.
• Does your candidate have true emergency experience and did they handle those cases alone or with the assistance of other onsite veterinarians?
• If the candidate is relatively new, have they been trusted as the primary doctor on over-night shifts and what cases did they encounter?
• Will they be expected to perform emergency surgeries without supervision and if so, what emergency procedures have they successfully performed solo in the past?
• If they are making the transition from daytime practice to overnight emergencies, what skills are they promoting in their resume that are transferable to your specific practice and its typical (and even atypical) nightly caseload?
• Does this associate show a willingness to commit to a position for the long term? You don’t want to go through the search for a new associate any sooner than you have to.
Secondly, what clues can we get from the initial phone interview that this candidate might walk around slack jawed and have a pronounced shuffle? Some questions to pose to your prospective associate are:
• "How would you describe your personality? Are you relatively laid back or would the term 'type A' more accurately describe you?” Of course, there is a wide range between the two and most candidates fit somewhere in the middle. All personality types can be potentially successful in the emergency practice setting, but organizational skills are not optional. Attributes such as knowing that everything has its place and having the ability to correctly prioritize tasks can not be underestimated!
• “How would the support staff at your previous position describe your personality and interpersonal skills?” This question should help you gain insight into the associate’s ability to relate well to others in the team. Emergency practices come with their own unique set of stress factors and the silent, drooling type will only add to the chaos! While we’re on the subject of communication skills, remember that this associate will be representing your practice to all of your much needed referring veterinarians and alienating that group with bad tempered mumbling is never a good idea.
• “Are you comfortable following the treatment plan of out referring veterinarians and providing the client and patient with continuity of care?” Some doctors can feel frustrated when they have to follow a treatment plan that they did not formulate. An emergency practice may not be the ideal workplace for these associates. A good portion of the emergency practice associate’s caseload will be supportive care for overnight patients sent on from other practices. Major adjustments to the plan these patients arrive with can ruffle the feathers of the referring practitioner.
Of course the third and best way to weed out potential zombies on your night shift is to invite your best candidates in for a working interview. Observation during a busy shift will give you the ability to evaluate skill-set, personality, staff interaction and pace. Here are some tips to help you decide if your visiting associate should be offered a permanent position:
• Does the associate display a sense of compassion toward the clients and patients in spite of the busy pace?
• Are the clients offered a range of treatment plans that take into account the needs of the patient and the financial ability of the client?
• Does the associate remain calm under stress and is that associate able to effectively lead the support staff through various crisis points in the shift?
• Does the associate effectively utilize the abilities of the support staff, such as allowing the technicians to do the tasks they are trained to perform? An associate that insists on doing everything themselves can find their caseload overwhelming as the evening progresses.
• Does the associate have good follow-up with the clients and the referring veterinarians? Great communication is crucial to the survival and success of the overnight emergency facility and a lack of ability in this area should be a huge red flag.
Being short staffed can make even the most seasoned practice manager susceptible to impulsive hiring, but this is the time to pay attention to details. Prospects are on their best behavior during interviews so any visible faults will only be amplified after the honeymoon phase is over! Get input from the staff after the interview; compare notes and prior to making any final decisions, get the most thorough references you possibly can. You don’t need to wait till your new associate is chewing on your arm at break time to rule them out as a potential zombie! Happy Halloween everyone and stay safe!
*Author Stith Keiser also contributed to this article.