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How to Embed a New Role When Working Virtually in your Primary Care Network

Many of you have been working virtually for months now, and while it may be beginning to feel ‘normal’, it hasn’t been without its challenges.

One of the key areas to be mindful of is; how you embed a new role within your primary care network following a successful hire.

I know many people who have indirectly made the error of thinking, “Once we've recruited, we’ll be sorted.” However, the time and attention that needs to be invested in making sure those new roles feel welcomed is underestimated. Fail to get this right and people within the neighbouring network will be ready and willing to pick up where you have failed.

In this blog I will share actionable advice to help you successfully embed a new primary care role within your network covering;

1. Designing the role/ service

2. Creating an induction plan

3. Creating a network of support

4. Setting expectations

5. Celebrating small wins

6. Creating a regular feedback loop

1. Designing a Primary Care Role or Service

Before your recruit joins the organisation or even before you put the primary care vacancy out there, you have to think very carefully about what you want the role to do;

  • What data is informing your decision?

  • Who is going to be interacting with this role?

  • What is the role and remit and boundaries of the role?

  • It helps if before you've hired the role to work out, what does the pathway look like?

  • What does the patient journey look like?

  • What information and access is this role going to need?

  • What systems are they going to need?

  • How will you know if the role is delivering on what it should do?

  • What key performance indicators, what monitoring measures are you going to be working towards?

This should be a collaborative effort. If you're in a primary care network, it is an exercise that is done with more than just the clinical director - all of the practices and key stakeholders need to be on board.

Next, you’ll design the role either virtually or in person. With my clients I encourage them to get out post-it notes and process map what the patient journey looks like. We then work out where the gaps are and then process map what that role would look like if you had your ideal role or that missing piece of the jigsaw in place. We also use virtual post -it notes!

The same process applies if you are thinking of contracting a tried true and trusted service - that can deliver for you on your behalf.

Once you worked out what you need; the capacity, line manage and clinical supervision training should also be articulated and agreed.

2. Creating an Induction Plan

The Induction Plan should be documented and organised as part of an induction process to successfully embed a new role, function or service. The things to think about including in your plan should cover;

  • What mandatory training are they going to be expected to do?

  • Who is going to be their buddy?

  • What is their timetable of activity going to look like for at least the first couple of weeks, if not the first month?

  • What introductions need to be made to this new team or this new person?

  • What do you expect this person to be able to do after one month within your organisation?

  • What do you expect them to do within their first 90 days of working within the organisation?

  • Who will be the clinical supervisor or line manager or buddy (depending on the role)?

If you're not sure what to include, think back to when you started your role and think about what was in place that was really, really helpful. Now knowing what you know, what else would have been really, really helpful? If you are recruiting a PCN Manager check out my Getting Started guide.

By designing the role and creating an induction plan, you’ll avoid hiring a person who isn’t clear what is expected of them.

This is even more important when this new role is based at home. They don't want to be sat at home, not being able to log into the system, not knowing who anybody is or who to speak to.

Make building the induction plan, a very clear responsibility for somebody to manage.

3. Creating a Network of Support

Alongside creating the Induction Plan, you’ll need to create a network of support for your new recruit.

In the primary care network that I’m currently supporting we have 3 pharmacists, a social prescriber, a network manager and a dietician. Whilst all those roles are slightly different, they are all employees of the network. So we want to bring those people together on a regular basis to provide peer support, provide the opportunity to develop friendships and to provide a space for them to share any challenges they may have in their role.

Initially you’ll have to artificially create this support by scheduling to meet every Monday for half an hour for example, to check in. Or you may set up a WhatsApp group or teams group for people to say ‘Good Morning’.

It sounds too simple, but you have to remember people are working from home. I am working from home and creating opportunities for people to say; “Hi, Bye!, Where's this? Where's that?” in a really short, friendly fashion, which so helpful in making people feel part of a team and that they are supported. Also, even though they may not be visibly seen by everybody, they will know they are regularly being thought of and have a space in their week where they will be meeting with others in a similar position.

A network of support may extend outside of their organisation. There may be other forums for your new team or team member to tap into. For example, you may have a social prescribing forum that happens every month. You might have a pharmacist forum that happens every month.

4. Setting Expectations, Clearly

Communicate expectations that you’ll review after 1 month and 90 days in the role.

  • What are you expecting them to do?

  • What does their clinical supervision look like?

  • Do they need any training?

Training is a big one. You may not be able to hire an all singing, all dancing unicorn to do exactly what you, you may need to incorporate training as part of their induction plan. Don't wait for them to pass their induction to invest in them. Invest in them from day one.

5. Celebrate Small Wins

An area I see overlooked is celebrating small wins. Your new hire is working virtually, so if they have a good day, who are they going to tell? The answer is, they're going to tell you, and then you're going to broadcast within your organisation if they do not feel comfortable sharing this themselves.

For example, Raquel is a social prescriber. She starting to receive referrals, so I let the team know that Raquel has started to receive her first referrals and she's absolutely loving it.

Building on this, Raquel has also recorded a video that I shared in PCN WhatsApp group to help educate others about her role by answering frequently asked questions.

By using video, we are essentially using marketing tactics that you’d consider in external marketing. We are using this internally to raise awareness of this new role and service and its working.

I advise the primary care networks to share wins in newsletters, via email and in meetings. It’s a great morale boost.

Whether you’re a buddy, line manager, or you're their clinical supervisor, it's part of your job to draw out the good stuff that is happening in their day to share. It's really, really important. If you fail to do this, people will leave! Or they'll be unhappy in their role. It's the small things that mean so much to people.

In my own organisation, THC we use Microsoft Teams a lot to do this. We have a Win’s channel where I'll post things that are happening. I'll let the team know I'm going on a lunch break to highlight to them to make sure they get their lunch break too. I'm role modelling that behaviour.

It can feel a little bit lonely, staring at the screen all day so I make sure that I check-in. Even though you may have talked to everyone in your team, you’re not usually talking to them as if you were in person.

The Little Things That Matter

The little things can make just as big a difference to how someone feels in their role. We don't want people to just do their job. We want them to feel part of our team and our organisation. It’s these little things that shouldn’t be underestimated that can create this feeling. A quick texts that says, “Just checking in. How's it going?”

I know some organisations that have lunch together on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. I have virtual coffee mornings.

If you work in a big organisation and perhaps you’ve found minimal uptake, my advice is to remain consistent and keep trying. Don’t give up too quickly. You are trying to create habits and to a degree, may be gently changing the culture of your organisation by incorporating this virtual element of onboarding new team members into the virtual space.

6. Creating a Regular Feedback Loop

Finally, I want to end with making sure you've got a regular feedback loop scheduled in a formal process with an agreed frequency to review agreed objectives. Questions to cover;

  • How are you progressing?

  • Is there anything that you need?

  • Are we on target?

This is your opportunity to provide feedback. Don't shy away from giving constructive feedback. Your new team member will want to know if they're doing their job to the best of their ability. It's really, really important because they may not be getting daily cues that they might get if they were sat next to you or in the same building as you.

Primary Care Recruitment Support

If you are a clinical director in a primary care network, looking to recruit more roles within your network, I can help by providing support in designing the role. Taking it one step back, if you need a workforce strategy, I would love to work with you also. Get in touch for an initial conversation.

I have an MBA in Healthcare Leadership and Management, I'm published in the London Journal of Primary Care and I host The Business of Healthcare Podcast.

I've written blogs for the NHS Confederation, appeared on the General Practice Podcast and the You are Not a Frog Podcast with Dr Rachel Morris.

I have 3 children - my youngest has Type 1 Diabetes and my middle child has the kidney condition Nephrotic Syndrome. Working with healthcare professionals is not just a job for me, it's part of everyday life. And as a result, I've developed a huge passion for helping others to deliver excellent care.

Find out more about THC Primary Care and follow me on Twitter.

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