Dr. Keon Kirlew
How Much Freedom Should We Let Therapists Have?
Updated: Jan 24, 2022
The keyword here is autonomy! How much should staff have when working in a healthcare environment?
I believe the answer is 100%, but I want to tackle this conversion from the perspective of the staff and clinic owner.
Many clinic owners want to attract the best staff. This includes therapists with greats social skills, an understanding of the body and even an understanding of the financials around a clinic. Once you have hired the top therapist, whether a new grad or a seasoned therapist, things will be done differently within your clinic than in their past experiences. There will always be a natural phase of adapting to the new environment. Still, we can never expect 100% adaptation. The biggest mistake we can make is pushing therapists too hard to do things your way, even if you consider it best for the business.
One important thing to consider is your company values and can you articulate them in simple terms! I hire around those values and use them as my guiding light. That way, as long as the new hire understands and executes those values, I believe they should choose everything else they want to do within the company. To give you some examples within a multi-disciplinary clinic, I think it is the therapist's choice to refer internally if they believe it is necessary. They should treat the patient using whatever style they want as long as it leads to their goal. They should choose to some degree when and for how long they work. They should select the frequency and duration of treatments based on their professional opinion and have the freedom to alter how they get paid based on pre-determined performance milestones.
I am so adamant about giving autonomy to staff regardless of whether they are new grads or seasoned therapists because once you have established your values, asking for more can cause staff turnover and lower quality outcomes in all areas with patients. If a therapist functions best, working five hours max per day with longer one-hour appointments times and starting in the afternoon because they are not a morning person altering these things even if they are getting paid well can kill enthusiasm which can easily rub off on patients. Once financial needs are met, money is no longer the driving force behind where staff choose to work or their enthusiasm. Understanding your staff's personal goals can be a great way to create great results for a company. If someone wants the freedom to leave early to go to their kid's soccer game at 5 pm, giving them the autonomy to make their schedule can, in turn, lead to better patient outcomes and company culture. Realizing this, I believe giving 100% autonomy leads to better long-term results but can only be accomplished when a clinic owner understands their values and sets them in place before the new staff member signs on the dotted line.