Motivating Employees: Beyond Financial Rewards

09/04/2008

This month in our Cosmetic Clinic column, Dr. Ken Beer offers excellent, practical advice on motivating employees. Motivated employees make a huge difference in the day-to-day running of our practices. Even beyond financial rewards, there are so many ways to motivate employees. All people want to feel that they are making a difference. We as dermatologists know we make a huge difference in patients’ lives. This drives us. We need to share that feeling with our staffs. Involving the Staff My sense of identity as a qualified phy-sician is always reinforced when patients present with mysterious eruptions that I can immediately recognize and treat. Just the other day, a patient presented with a bizarre, linear, red eruption on the right thigh that began with blisters and pain while on vacation in the Caribbean. Although she had no idea what caused it, many of us would immediately recognize this as phytophotodermatitis (“Club Med dermatitis”).1 (See photo below.) But I had fun asking her about it. “So, you were in the bar?” I asked. “Yes,” she answered. “And you had a fruity cocktail of some kind, didn’t you?” “Yes,” she answered. “And you may have spilled some of the drink on your thigh and gotten some sun afterward?” “Yes. Why?” she asked. “You have Club Med dermatitis — a toxic reaction from the sun hitting a chemical that was in the fruit drink.” “No, you’re not serious; are you?” she asked. “My husband will love this one!” It might have been enough to treat her and send her home. Instead, I invited nurses to see her to learn about this condition and to experience how interesting dermatology is. Involving staff with these “cool cases” makes them feel appreciated and a part of things in a way far beyond the financial bonuses we can provide. Our staff needs to know that we recognize and value them as colleagues. Fostering Employee Development As our nurses gain experience in dermatology, they gain the ability to recognize different conditions and begin to identify themselves as “dermatologic nurses.” This kind of identification can result in lifelong retention in the field. When Dr. Beer points out that we “must consistently emphasize quality care,” he gets to the heart of this issue. Whenever possible, use the talents of your nursing staff to improve patients’ lives — whether by helping calm patients before anesthesia, educating them about proper use of medications, or encouraging patients to get involved with dermatology advocacy groups. As Dr. Beer points out, education is another powerful way to foster employee development. So, involve nursing staff in the Dermatology Nurses Association (DNA). Also, consider having a “journal club” with nursing staff to discuss each issue of the DNA journal. Recognizing The Entire Staff Some of the hardest jobs in our office belong to the scheduling, business and front desk staff. They’re isolated from the personal contact with patients that makes dermatology exciting. It’s more challenging for us to find ways to make these staff members see the impact we make in patients’ lives. Regular staff meetings can help. As the psoriasis expert in our group, I share the impact psoriasis has and how we help patients. Involving the staff in the experience of helping people may be the best medicine to reduce apathy. We have many successes, patients whose lives have been dramatically altered by our treatment — patients with horrific scarring acne cured with isotretinoin, debilitating psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis controlled with a TNF inhibitor, intractable itch cured by appropriate diagnosis and treatment. These are the reasons I became a dermatologist. These patients give me far more satisfaction than a bonus check could. We could not successfully care for these patients without the key contributions our staffs make. Making sure that our staffs know this shouldn’t be taken for granted when we consider how to motivate our office colleagues.