Utilizing part-time technicians (Proceedings)

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Utilizing part-time technicians (Proceedings)

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Oct 01, 2008

You can utilize part-time technicians in a way that gives them rewarding work and also helps your hospital. Problems that arise with part-timers usually are a result of inadequate organizational structure. Define and use group communication tools; ensure your job descriptions are up to date; and cross-train employees.

Group communication tools

Start by defining and using group communication tools.

A hospital manual (employee handbook) with procedures and policies serves as a basis, not a substitute, for verbal communication and training. Clear job descriptions are critical to ensure everyone knows what they are expected to do. This is even more true for part-timers, since one person is "picking up" where another leaves off. Who is supposed to do what, and when?

Hold rounds at each shift change. These need not be formal, as long as essential information is exchanged consistently.

Provide a bulletin board for "housekeeping" announcements. Date all postings and keep the board fresh to ensure it's used.

Provide individual mailboxes. Use when it's essential that each individual receives a specific notice or information.

Assign work partners (tech/doctor) to reduce resentment of "who's getting all the help." This keeps everyone in regular contact with others. Rotate to enhance overall teamwork.

Talk to each other, every day. Don't wait for meetings to tell people what's going on. While you are waiting for your official announcement, others are getting nervous, guessing, and talking.

Hold regular meetings. This is the official method to help people "know what's going on."

Cross-train employees for consistency and efficiency. Cross-training is training team members to perform duties outside of their daily job description. For example, a technician and receptionist may switch positions for several hours in order to learn more about the other's tasks and challenges. Multiple purposes of cross-training include improved teamwork, better appreciation of others, reduction in formation of "cliques," and the ability of the hospital to respond to unexpected events. Cross-training is best applied with employees who have mastered their current job description.

Define flexible and part-time work

Flex-time includes anything outside of the typical professional's 8 to 5 workday, 5 to 6 days per week. For example, some employees may work from 7 am to 3 pm, and others from 10 am to 8 pm. These can be permanently staggered shifts, or optional and changing as the needs of the business and its employees change. Flexible scheduling can include alternating who works weekends, or holidays. You can even flex by season. Such schedules are arranged well ahead of time—often by the year.

A compressed work week is a work arrangement where someone may work "full time," but those hours are fitted into fewer days.

Pure-part-time refers to a job that ranges from 15 to 30 hours per week, as a long term commitment. The number of hours per week is usually fixed for each part-time employee.

Job sharing includes different responsibilities for employees than if they were each simply hired for a part-time position. Job-sharers are together responsible for ensuring that certain hours and duties are filled—together, they act as one. Their job description should include ensuring the hours are covered, and they must work together to make that happen.

Part-time as full-time (working at more than one hospital), is great for people who want to work full-time, but who can only find a part-time position. This arrangement works best if doctors work in two clinics whose client-geographical areas do not overlap.

Let part-timers participate in creating their schedules

One concern about using multiple part-timers is that they'll all want the same days or times off. The reality is that teams can work well together to solve these problems, if they're given the authority and responsibility to do so. As one veterinarian said, "Sure, we all want certain days or holidays off, but we all can't have them! It's a give and take for everyone."

Employers often work harder than they have to when it comes to creating part-timers' schedules. Instead, tell your associates the hours and days that need to be filled and ask them to creatively work together to fill those hours and days. Allowing (requiring) your team members to solve their own scheduling is not the same as being an absentee leader, nor is it the same as being dismissive. It also does not mean that people work whenever they want to. The business has needs that must be filled. The employer can set limits and requirements.

A good leader asks others to take on responsibility while being available to coach them through the process. They often come up with different or more creative solutions than would the practice owner or manager.

Utilizing part-time technicians makes sense for them and for the hospital. Treat them with respect; involve them in planning schedules and in ensuring communication occurs across shifts. Your team will have more energy to devote to clients and the pets they love.