Field Staff Make December Memorable: Value in the Practice

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

OK field staff, does anyone feel like coasting through the end of year? Many field teams take on delivery roles as the baskets of goodies or logo wear gifts pile up in the practices. It feels good to have a full agenda with no pre-call plans. Everyone loves the treats and holiday cheer, but in a world that cries for more hours in the day, I suspect there are better options. My thoughts turn to practice opportunities and to personal development for the rep. I will focus on the practice first.


1.   Reflect

Take a few minutes to reflect on the past year. This guided conversation works equally well for staff and the physicians. Create a couple of questions that encourage them to reflect on the past year. “Dr. Smith as you reflect on this first full year in your practice are you feeling good about your referral relationships?” Or, “Bill, your practice had a lot of changes this year including the new employment agreement with our organization. Looking back what was your best learning that I can share with others?”

Other options:

  • Reflect on something you were personally responsible for managing
  • Focus on a specific topic that your organization can learn from
  • Frame the state of mind of the stakeholder- broad or specific
  • Give you a sense of unmet needs as you prepare for the year ahead

2.   Remind

If you have a formed a strong relationship with a practice and physician, use December to call out positives that have resulted from your relationship. It goes without saying, a strong practice WIIFM (what’s in it for me) is key. The reminder can be in-depth or just part of a regular conversation.

The deeper dive may only be right for a handful of practices, but for that small group it can be really impactful. For example, “Dr. Smith did you know in the last year we made two significant changes to surgery scheduling based on your feedback…” Or, “Dr. Smith, this year as I recall you met with four new doctors on staff at Acme that have all become part of your referral network.”  From there, the conversation moves to what’s next. “Where do we go in taking the surgery process to the next level?” Or, “Reflecting on your patients, where else should we focus our medical staff expansion?”

Other less formal reminders

  • Call out your responsiveness that made something easier for them
  • Patient experience or access improvements work nicely
  • If they are a new partner or brought in a new colleague you can call out the ramp up process 

3.   Planned spontaneity with a festive flair

While the field rep may have it planned in advance, that “thought of you today” special coffee drink or a personal card to acknowledge them can feel special. Other ideas might include:

  • Inviting a member of the practice to meet someone they regularly connect with by phone at your facility.
  • If you have pediatric practices, December can be a very busy month. Call the practice administrator to let them know what you have planned and order a pizza for lunch on Friday. Do it via a delivery- no strings attached- just a message to the practice that we’re thinking of you and wanted to do something special.
  • Give a handful of your practices a $50 dollar grocery or toy store gift card that they can provide to someone in the practice or to a patient that might really benefit from a little something extra.
  • A similar idea is to make a donation to a good cause in the name of a doctor or practice that is one of your retention targets.

The key for success with this concept is the personalization that a spontaneous action can provide. For me, this is not the same as the fruit basket delivered to every practice.  Both are good, but they are different and you gain different results.

Beyond these ideas, the tried and true question is, “What’s next?” Goals and challenges in preparing for the New Year is always a good option. I bet you have other things that work well so please share!

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