By Dominic Kelley
Asking exit interview questions is not a pleasant task since happy employees rarely leave medical practices. Plus, the demands of the healthcare profession cause a high level of burnout among team members. You can expect to hear some hard truths if you ask the right questions in a secure atmosphere.
To make things more difficult, losing a seasoned healthcare employee is a huge loss financially and practically, particularly when the current system is under so much strain. And these difficulties are intensifying just when you have an urgent need to retain employees and hire more help.
Healthcare turnover, particularly among nurses, was high before the current crisis. Now burnout rates have skyrocketed and people are leaving at an unprecedented rate. RNs leave their employment at approximately 17% each year. Research on physicians shows up to a 50% burnout rate which is fueling many to drop out and seek alternative employment. Research also shows that 36% of front desk staff felt burnt out before the COVID-19 crisis. How you handle this level of turnover will affect your level of patient care as well as your financial status.
A well-conducted exit interview can help you improve your practice and allow you to build a solid, stable team, one that provides admirable patient service. In healthcare, provider-patient relationships matter, but so do the relationships within your healthcare team. When you ask probing, industry-specific questions, you have a better chance of keeping your key team members in place.
Some exit interview questions are common to most industries. You need to establish the basics first before you dig deeper. These basic questions include:
1. Why are you leaving us?
This question is perhaps the most obvious. You need to know whether it's due to dissatisfaction with your practice, with the employee's career choice, or some other personal factor. For example, your veterinary technician who has already been hired by another practice is more likely to tell you the unvarnished truth.
2. Could you talk to your manager or department head openly about your concerns during your employment? Did you feel supported by this organization?
This interview may be your only shot to learn about inter-practice conflicts that are affecting job satisfaction.
3. Would you recommend us as a place to work?
This question may prod a reluctant interviewee to tell the truth about their attitude toward the practice. If they answer "no," you know that you need to explore their dissatisfaction.
Other questions can be tailored to specifically address healthcare roles.
4. Do the various team members here work well together to provide optimal care to our patients?
The answer to this question can help you identify and improve communication issues between key team members and get to the bottom of practice dysfunction.
5. Did we meet your professional training and developmental needs while you were here? What could we have done better?
Doctors are highly trained professionals who are much in demand. They need more opportunities to learn and grow than many other professionals. If you aren't providing those opportunities, your recruitment efforts will also suffer.
6. Did we put unrealistic expectations on your job performance?
Medical professionals, such as dentists, dermatologists, physical therapists, etc., are often stretched thin with long shifts and minimal support staff. Currently, many are simply exhausted. You need to know if this strain is driving away your team and work to reduce it.
7. Did you always feel respected and supported while working here?
This question is especially important to the front desk staff and other supporting employees in a practice. The power difference between them and the licensed professionals can be enormous.
8. In your opinion, did we comply with all applicable laws and regulations while you were here? If not, please give me examples of where we failed.
No healthcare practice wants to be on the wrong side of the law. If an employee thinks the workplace is doing something illegal, they will leave, and they may report you. The intricacies of labor law are complicated. It is helpful to understand each employee's perception of your HR practices, so you can modify them if necessary to maintain your reputation as an ethical employer.
9. What are the top three processes you think the practice needs to change?
When you frame the question this way, you will get concrete examples instead of a long stream of grievances. And an unhappy employee undoubtedly has at least three complaints. Don't dismiss their answers as venting. You will find some truth there.
10. What could we do to convince you to stay?
Obviously, this question is only appropriate when a solid team member is leaving you, but medical practices need to retain their employees if at all possible. Training a new employee is expensive and slows down the workflow for some weeks if not months.
No one exit interview fits every practice. You will need to add or subtract questions depending on your unique circumstances. But remember, your main exit interview goals are to reduce turnover and identify weaknesses in your operation. During this pandemic, you cannot afford to lose valued employees over conflicts or poor communication. If you must lose an employee, you need to get as many answers for why as you possibly can.
Your practice does not need to handle these difficult situations alone. HR for Health can advise you on all your hiring and personnel issues. If you need help with your employee exit interviews or other in-house processes, contact us today. We can help you keep your top talent and strengthen your human resources operation. Schedule a call with us.
Did you know that we at HR for Health monitor all the specific laws and regulations that affect your practice? If you have questions about compliance issues, please reach out to us. Schedule a call, call (877) 779-4747, or email firstname.lastname@example.org now to learn more.
HR for Health is one of the nation's leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices.
Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services.