The human resources department plays a critical role in companies in every industry. No company or industry is better off without a great HR leader. The role of human resources in healthcare is particularly critical. Because of the complexities faced by the healthcare industry, it’s vital to have a strong HR team in place to help navigate the various challenges.
Why Human Resources is Critical in Healthcare
HR in healthcare extends far beyond the hiring, onboarding, payroll, and firing processes that are often top of mind when thinking about human resources. In healthcare, HR leaders and departments are forced to be more strategic, forward-thinking, and legally adept. On top of all that, HR healthcare leaders must recognize that the group of humans who fall within their stewardship extends beyond the employees receiving a paycheck; it also encompasses patients who are receiving care.
To run a successful healthcare practice, human resources must be top of mind. We’ll dive into the role of human resources in healthcare and better understand what HR leaders must do to play an effective role in this industry.
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The Roles of Human Resources in Healthcare
As we stated in the introduction, HR leaders in healthcare have a lot on their plate. Their role expands to various aspects of the practice and familiarity with both the human resources side of the job and with the healthcare industry are a must. Below are the common roles and responsibilities assigned to HR leaders in healthcare:
- Logistics Management
- Relevant Trends
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Equitable Treatment
- Patient Satisfaction
- Employee Management
- Dispute and Discipline Management
- Compliance and Legality
Like any HR job, the goal is to get the best humans you can find in positions where they can succeed. This begins with the hiring process.
Hiring is a key responsibility for any human resources department, and there is no exception to this in the healthcare industry. In fact, because healthcare workers are often very specialized it can make this job even more difficult.
When hiring for healthcare, the number of candidates is often limited, both by geography and by ability. Many healthcare workers need to either have specialized, advanced degrees, or they need to be trained and certified for various positions. Human resources leaders in healthcare must prepare for both of these challenges and understand how to screen for them in the hiring process.
Finally, the needs of your medical practice may change quickly and you’ll need to be prepared to act. For example, hiring a new doctor may also mean needing to hire a new nurse and a new physician’s assistant. Because some positions will require staffing in other areas, the human resources department must do a good job of forecasting future needs and keeping a list of “warm candidates” who they can call upon in a pinch.
When you’re working at a healthcare facility, the difference between a poorly trained and well-trained employee can sometimes be the difference between life and death. While that might sound a touch dramatic, it’s also very true. Training new employees is a must for any company, but it’s absolutely essential in the healthcare business.
Developing a well-designed training program will often fall on the shoulders of the HR team. Human resources leaders need to devise onboarding plans so that new employees can learn their responsibilities, schedules, and expectations. New employees also need to become very familiar with their day-to-day tasks, learn vocabulary that may be unique to the company, and develop relationships with co-workers.
Another part of training new employees is making sure everyone has their proper licenses and certifications. It’ll be up to the HR team to make sure that those who need certifications have them, and that those licenses and certifications are renewed before they expire. Using software to help track all of these renewal dates and training requirements is a must.
Remember, training doesn’t stop when onboarding is completed. Training employees is a recurring task that will need to be continued throughout the employee lifecycle. One of the human resources’ primary roles in healthcare is to make sure that all employees receive the training, certifications, and licenses they need to do their job and remain legally compliant.
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When it comes to human resources and healthcare, logistics are an integral part of the job. While healthcare may generally have a reputation for moving slow, there are definitely times when you’ll need to be ready to act fast.
First, you need to consider scheduling and job rotations. Depending on the facility or clinic you’re working at, this may be rather simple or very complex. Large healthcare facilities like hospitals may manage hundreds of different rotations for doctors, nurses, visiting physicians, and others. Making sure shifts and schedules are easily communicated, readily accessible, and flexible to changes is a must.
Next, you’ll need to have a system for managing the logistics of payroll. Again depending on the facility and the pay structures in place, this can become complicated very quickly. Some healthcare workers (like therapists or surgeons) may only get paid when they perform work on a patient or with a client. Other workers are paid a salary and may have bonus incentives structured into their employment agreement. Establishing pay structures and then managing both fixed and variable pay for employees can be a challenge without the proper expertise. HR professionals in healthcare need to be prepared for such challenges.
While keeping up with relevant trends may be a prerequisite for any HR role, there are some unique things to consider when running an HR department for a healthcare company.
When most HR professionals think about relevant trends, their minds might immediately focus on things like working from home, company culture, performance management, and other hot topics in the HR world. These are all important and understanding their impact can provide great value to the company.
However, for this discussion, we’re not referring to these types of trends; rather, human resources professionals in healthcare need to think about local trends that are relevant to their healthcare practice.
For example, if your practice is in an area that is increasing (or decreasing) in population very quickly, then you might need to adjust your forecast for future staff positions. You’ll also want to be familiar with the size of the geographic area that is typically served by your facility and whether or not there is new competition in that area.
Additionally, keeping track of things like the average age of the population you serve, the frequent needs and treatments of that population, and the socioeconomic status of your potential customers will all factor into the decisions you make from an HR standpoint.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Equitable Treatment
A primary tenant of a good HR department is to ensure that the company is fair and equitable to employees. There is no room for discrimination of any kind, especially discrimination based on things like racial prejudice or gender.
A great way to ensure that employees are treated equitably is to have clear guidelines and directions around things like pay raises, career advancement, and leadership responsibilities. Being transparent and clear about these guidelines and sticking to them will reduce the chances that an employee is discriminated against (even unconsciously) because of their age, race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual preference.
Of course, you can do much more than simply ensuring that employees with the same experience are getting paid equivalent salaries. There is much more you can do to facilitate an inclusive workplace environment.
HR professionals working in healthcare should be proactive about creating an accepting, welcoming place to work and attend. This will not only be important for employees, but also for the patients or clients who visit your facility.
We encourage you to hold regular training on diversity, inclusion, harassment, and similar subjects. Take complaints about harassment or prejudice seriously and investigate them to the best of your abilities. Seek out diverse job candidates when looking for new hires. Create opportunities for colleagues to get to know one another and form relationships.
A workplace can only be great when everyone feels comfortable and accepted. The human resources department should share in the responsibility to see that this happens.
Learn how 5 companies build their culture through incredible employee experiences.
It may come as a surprise to see this as a responsibility for the human resources department in healthcare. After all, isn’t patient satisfaction left up to the practitioners?
While the majority of the responsibility may fall on their shoulders, the HR professionals in healthcare should not shy away from being involved in making every patient visit a success.
So in practical terms, what can HR actually do to make a difference in this area?
First, HR can make sure schedules and shifts are properly coordinated so that practitioners are not late for appointments. If there’s one thing any patient hates it’s being asked to wait for a long time when they had an appointment on the books. Getting scheduling and staffing problems ironed out so that patients are seen when they’re scheduled to be seen can lead to higher satisfaction scores.
Second, HR leaders can address issues of poor behavior that practitioners may occasionally express. If someone in your facility who regularly has face-to-face interaction with patients is acting out, using vulgar language, or treating patients disrespectfully, it’s up to the HR leader to stop such behavior.
Finally, part of the human resources role in healthcare is to ensure that everyone working in the facility has the tools and resources to do their job properly. Check-in with the heads of various departments regularly to ensure that they not only have the staff needed to operate effectively, but that they have the software, hardware, and other tools to ensure patients have a great experience each time they walk in and out of your office.
Employee management is an inescapable part of HR’s job, and that doesn’t change when working in the healthcare industry. As we mentioned at the top of this article, any business in any industry is only as successful as the people who work there. Because of this, managing the employees at your healthcare facility should always be top of mind.
What do we mean by employee management? Well, this takes on many different flavors of responsibility. First and foremost, employee management means properly and securely tracking and managing the employee data you gather from each of your hires. Much of this data is highly sensitive and must be treated with extreme care. You also need to have it available to access whenever a question arises or an audit is pending.
Employee management also encompasses the performance of the employees in your organization. A yearly performance review just doesn’t cut it in today’s world. Employees want to be met with regularly so that they have a chance to discuss the challenge they face as well as receive feedback from superiors. Having a program in place to regularly check in on employee performance will contribute to a healthy workplace culture and help employees feel heard.
Finally, employee management also means making decisions about organizational structure, staffing needs, and in unfortunate situations, conducting layoffs. HR leaders working in healthcare must stay on top of the needs of their organization so that it’s properly staffed and operating efficiently. When downturns happen, restructuring and reorganizing the facility is an unfortunate but critical responsibility that the human resources department needs to be involved in.
Discipline and Dispute Management
When people outside of the world of human resources think of HR, they often think first of disciplinary action. There is no shortage of jokes made about HR being code for “company police” or about how they ruin all the fun. After all, Toby’s entire character in The Office is based on this stigma.
While we know that HR is so much more than disciplinary action, it doesn’t change the fact that discipline and dispute management are an important part of the job. When things go awry, HR needs to be there.
Healthcare may have its unique set of challenges, but ultimately many of the disciplinary actions you’ll have to take are consistent with what you’ll find in other industries. Employees who are lazy, who regularly miss shifts, who do not perform their responsibilities, or who do not follow the rules and guidelines laid out in the company’s handbook need to be held accountable. Based on their offense and prior history of behavior, disciplinary action should be taken swiftly and appropriately.
Additionally, disputing employees may need a mediator if they cannot resolve the issues themselves. When it comes to unresolved disputes, HR leaders must not be afraid to step in and work with employees to find solutions.
Compliance and Legality
Healthcare is among the most regulated industries in the world, and for good reason. There are rules and regulations in place to ensure that patients are treated fairly and that no harm is done. Of course, HR is another highly regulated industry with its own set of rules, guidelines, and restrictions in place. The intersection of these two industries is what regulatory dreams are made of.
The role of human resources in healthcare calls for compliance and legal savvy. HR leaders in this role cannot afford to be ignorant of the legal issues they most certainly will face. While we are not in a position to offer legal advice or counsel, we do encourage human resources professionals in healthcare to seek expert guidance throughout their careers.
HR leaders in healthcare carry a heavy burden. The stakes are high, as are the expectations. Taking on these roles and responsibilities by oneself, or with a team, can be daunting.
Do not forget that there are software tools that have been developed to help ease these burdens. Companies like EddyHR work closely with healthcare facilities of all kinds to streamline the management of people, payroll, HR processes, and more.
If you’re in an HR role and working in healthcare, EddyHR may be exactly what you need to turn your HR department into a well-oiled machine.