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Professional Staff succession planning – does your hospital have a plan?

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Professional Staff in hospitals are doctors, dentists, midwives and privileged staff nurse practitioners.

Does your hospital have a plan to deal with Professional Staff retirements, departures and recruitment?

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You are worried about a future brain drain – when you look into the future, you can see the possibly of a mass exodus of highly-trained, mission-committed Professional Staff because everyone is approximately the same age and stage
  • You receive a resignation letter from a staff member and your heart sinks – if they leave, you are going to have to close down that clinical service
  • Senior staff want to decrease their on-call coverage during evenings, weekends and holidays but you don’t know who is going to take up those duties
  • You want to recruit new Professional Staff members, but you are struggling to put together a package of services that is attractive to those recruits because all you have available is the time-consuming, high-acuity, repetitive, lower compensation duties without a counterbalance of lucrative, exciting, prestigious, creative, “high value” work
  • You have been caught off guard when someone retires or leaves abruptly where they have not transitioned their care appropriately or otherwise fulfilled their professional duties

What’s the solution?

Planning, tracking, policy and open-dialogue.

A Professional Staff Human Resources Plan helps hospitals determine the appropriate number and type of Professional Staff members required for current and future state.  These plans must be linked to the hospital’s strategic goals for clinical care. They provide an opportunity to think through the existing Professional Staff composition and plan for possible retirements and recruitment.

These plans can include:

  • Current number and type and expertise of Professional Staff members
  • Number and type of Professional Staff members who are needed to provide current service levels
  • Projections for the members who are expected to retire within the next two years
  • Anticipated changes in service levels over the next two years (thinking about changing demographics of the community, and the hospital’s strategic plan)
  • Number and type of Professional Staff members to be recruited
  • “Vulnerable” programs (single-provider or few-provider services or highly specialized services that are the most vulnerable to Professional Staff turnover)

Hospital leadership should be tracking and reporting on that plan to keep it up-to-date.

Every hospital should have a Professional Staff Retirement/Resignation Policy to explain expectations in advance so that Professional Staff members know:

  • How much notice is required for a retirement or resignation
  • If a Professional Staff member is also an employee, what the relationship is between privileges and employment
  • What a retirement/resignation triggers – such as termination of other affiliations like university appointments, joint appointments with other hospitals or community affiliations or membership on committees
  • How “slowing” a practice can or cannot be accommodated including reducing certain practice requirements like on-call coverage in exchange for sharing the high-value work with new recruits
  • The process the hospital undertakes for equitably distributing resource changes to Professional Staff
  • The process for making decisions with respect to changes in those resources

Successful Professional Staff succession planning is based on open dialogue and communication.  Individual Professional Staff members need to know they can come forward and share their future plans.  Collectively, the Professional Staff Association needs to be engaged to provide input and expertise into hospital planning and policy making.  Hospital leaders need to keep Professional Staff members apprised of changing needs and opportunities in the community and the priorities of the hospital.

Did you know …

The Ontario Hospital Association has recently made its Professional Staff Credentialing Toolkit free online?  You’ll read even more tips on succession planning there.


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