PTPN Insights

The smart search: How to hire the right staff for your practice.

December 21st, 2012 |

What to expect when you're hiring a new staff member.With the new year approaching, many clinics are preparing to look for new employees. Here are a few tips on what to do when hiring a new staffer, from the front desk to your clinical director.

The front desk

While you may not need someone with clinical skills or advanced degrees in this role, it is often the first person with whom your patients will come into contact when they enter your clinic or call for information. PTPN Claims Manager Mike McManus has become an expert in hiring data entry and customer service professionals for his staff. He reminds managers to look for such basics as punctuality (showing up early for an interview, not just on time), appropriate attire (how would you react if this person greeted you at a different clinic?), and proper grammar and punctuation. He says, “If grammatical errors exist on someone’s resume, you KNOW they’ll exist on correspondence going out to a client.”

Mike also suggests that if the staffer will be answering phones at your clinic, do a phone interview first to chat about the position. You’ll quickly learn about any “umms,” gum-chewing, or other inappropriate behaviors that would conflict with their interactions with clients.

The last item Mike points out is the length of time the person has spent at previous positions. If he sees three or four different jobs within the last year or two, his first reaction is that they’ll be looking for another job within a month. Mike makes a point of asking, “Is there anything coming up in the next 4–6 months that will keep you from staying here? Will you be moving or going away to school?” On the flip side, he notes, if the applicant is earning their degree online or through night school, he knows that he has a hard worker who will stay for a while.

The billing staffer or operations manager

The people who manage your billing, scheduling, human resources and other administrative tasks need to be highly organized and efficient. Angelique Neumann, a sales consultant with The Omnia Group (a PTPN Preferred Vendor), cautions not to judge too quickly or to dismiss someone that doesn’t “wow” you immediately. Rather, assess their skills to see if they fit the job you’re filling; if it makes sense, consider giving your final few choices a behavioral profile to fill out in order to help determine their fit for the position.

Angelique emphasizes that any new staffers should be able to deal with stress in an appropriate manner. They should also be able to build professional relationships with everyone on their team. She suggests trying to determine how they have dealt with office conflict or challenges in the past by asking for examples of how they have handled specific types of situations, rather than asking what the person “would” do in this position.

The staff physical therapist or clinical director

Choosing your clinical staff is crucial. Stevyn Voyles, Chief Operating Officer of Progressive Physical Therapy in California, notes, “The front office is in charge of snagging the patient. The back office is in charge of reeling them in and keeping them for life.”

The challenge of hiring good clinical staff is to ensure that they not only have all of the above professional skills, but also the clinical knowledge required for the position. Stevyn’s optimal clinical hire would have a DPT, post-professional certification, like orthopedics (OCS), and years of experience and continuing education. But that’s not always possible, of course. Make sure to check that all licenses and certifications are valid for your state. With the incorporation of electronic medical records (EMRs) and proliferation of correspondence via email, you might want to ask candidates about their technical knowledge as well.

When hiring clinical staff, take a good look at your existing staff to determine what skills will best complement the PTs you already have. Stevyn notes that she expects all of her clinical staff to excel in orthopedics, but then looks for a variety of niche certifications and specifications to round out the clinic’s services. She also suggests considering your contracts and patient population; if you have a large number of Medicare patients, for example, a geriatrics specialist would be a great hire. And if you’re approaching retirement, you might want to look for candidates that could be considered for partnership down the road.

Stevyn also advocates choosing where to advertise based on cost and readers. She notes, “Social media sites, internet job boards such as Craig’s list, and professional association sites will give you more bang for your buck.” When hiring clinical staff in particular, consider posting on such rehab professional sites as (another PTPN Preferred Vendor) or, if you’re a PTPN member, our own PTPN job board.

For any clinical hire, Stevyn suggests doing a working interview with your final few candidates. She advises, “Have them come in for a day or two, pay them, and see how they interact with patients and staff.” Such hands-on interaction will help to solidify your decision on who will best fit with the rest of your staff.

Regardless of what position you’re filling, Stevyn notes that effective hiring starts with knowing who you are and what you need, and finding the right fit: “someone that either possesses skills you don’t have, or someone who will take over duties and responsibilities that you don’t have time for or would rather not do.” In either case, she adds, “this person must agree with, and be able to live by, your company’s mission statement, core values, treatment philosophy and policies and procedures.”

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you and your staff will spend a great deal of time with whoever is hired. Mike acknowledges that it may be selfish, but he always asks himself, “Can I spend time with this person for 40 hours every week?” He points out that no matter how great his or her skills are, if he or she will annoy everyone around her… “NEXT!”

A special thanks to our contributors:

Mike McManus Mike McManus, Claims Manager for PTPN, has been working for the company for more than 20 years. His expertise in hiring has led almost every other PTPN department in the national headquarters to “steal” his employees for promotions at one time or another.
Angelique Neumann Angelique Neumann, Sales Consultant with The Omnia Group (a PTPN Preferred Vendor), helps organizations hire right the first time, manage more effectively and build high-performance teams. She offers insight on effective employee engagement, communication and motivation. She provides guidance to businesses in a variety of industries, including healthcare, insurance, finance, automotive, and staffing.
Stevyn Voyles Stevyn Voyles is the COO and Vice President of Progressive Physical Therapy, a PTPN member with four locations in Southern California. She has been with Progressive PT for more than 20 years and has been working in health administration since 1984.

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