The author of this article is Rebecca Fox, MD, co-owner of a pediatric practice in Northern Virginia and member of the Physicians Practice Physician Advisory Board.
Many physicians try to avoid the task of letting staff members go, but there is value for doctors to be present for staff terminations, even if the practice has a capable administrator. Being present as a witness helps give administrators the authority they need to do their job. The staff member will know that the physician is in complete agreement with the administrator’s decision and that it is final.
Staff dismissals can be an important learning opportunity for physicians. It’s important to be aware of all aspects of the business, both medical and administration duties. While it is not a duty that is performed regularly, you should know how it is accomplished and learn about what can and can’t be said from a legal perspective.
When being a witness, take your clinical bedside manner into the situation. Be dispassionate and maintain your professional demeanor. Being present during the termination shows the staff member that the decision is final and non-negotiable. Staff terminations should be brief, taking no more than 15 minutes. It is imperative to not get emotionally involved in the process. While you can be empathetic, don’t get sucked into a lengthy counseling session.
Remember, as physicians, you are ultimately responsible for the greater good of your practice. Letting a poorly performing staff member go may strengthen the overall quality of your institution.
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