People management in an IVF setting – part two

Training, induction and appraisals

In last weeks blog I covered aspects of staff recruitment,  recruitment advertising and interview processes.

Following on from that, I’d like to focus on a few aspects of employee management that I think are very important.

A couple of things to bear in mind here, I’m going to be light on references – there won’t be any! This is because most textbooks on management are heavy on words but light on substance.

Secondly, I don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty of legal staples like employment contracts. Instead just suggest some standard procedures, backed up with good practice, which are a prerequisite for quality.

Training is one of the most important tasks of management, especially in the IVF setting. In many ways the quality of the whole clinic experience depends on the staff training and development. It is  important to recognise that this is a two-way process.  Allow  trainees to give feedback on the training received so that the clinic  can be continuously improved.


When does training begin?

On day one, with the induction for new staff.

It is vitally important that new staff quickly understand:

  •  Clinic vision
  • Mission
  • Business objectives
  • Culture
  • Ethics
  • Decision making hierarchies
  • Internal and external communications

A well planned induction,  taking place over the first three weeks of employment is invaluable for this purpose.

It’s important to get off to a good start, and by creating a checklist you ensure that everything is in place. This might include the following:

  • Space: where will the employee sit when completing administrative tasks/routines? Has it been thought out logically?
  • Is the seating furniture (desk/chairs) adequate and in good repair?
  • Do they have everything they need in terms of stationery?
  • Do they have a working telephone?
  • Do they have access to a good computer (i.e. one that functions properly), and has provision been made for them to have the correct level of access to all the necessary IT systems, including email? 
  • Handbook: it is worth creating a staff handbook laying out standard operating procedures and management processes of the organisation. Note: some organisations provide time for the new employee to peruse this, after which they are required to sign a slip to say they have read and understood it
  • Staff chart: this allows new staff to quickly gain an understanding of the lines of management in the organisation, and it should be the responsibility of the line manager to personally introduce them to all other staff in the organisation
  • Health and safety: new staff need to know about general health and safety, emergency procedures, and who is responsible for First Aid and facilities
  • Confidentiality: has the employee been vetted? Have they signed the necessary confidentiality documents to allow them access to patient information?
  • Induction programme diary: this is an outline and schedule of key stepping stones to be completed over the initial three weeks of employment to include training sessions and meetings with key staff

Getting to know each other’s roles

As part of gaining an understanding of the whole organisation it is a good idea for  staff to spend some time in other departments.

For instance, a new embryologist might spend a couple of hours in admin or on reception.  A nurse might spend time shadowing an embryologist. This helps everyone understand the functions of each department and how they dovetail.

Another useful idea is a buddy system. Each new member of staff is given an appointed buddy who will show them the ropes for non working routines.

The buddy is usually a socially confident staff member who enjoys taking on this responsibility and does not see it as a chore!

The buddy will familiarise the new employee with:

  • lunch break arrangements
  • coffee/tea breaks
  • social networks like  gym memberships
  • knowledge of local amenities.

Training for competency

Generally it is a good rule to assume that staff are not fully competent in the specific operating procedures. These vary from workplace to workplace. With this in mind, clinics can ask new staff to perform an audit comparing procedures. This can then be discussed with their manager before the employee undertakes the procedure themselves. Once procedures have been undertaken successfully they can be signed off by a manager. For instance, a checklist for sign-off by a manager for a new nurse might include the following:

  • Patient communication
  • Cycle scanning and follicle assessment
  • Assisting with oocyte retrieval
  • Phlebotomy
  • BMI measurements

As competencies expand and training is given, this check list can become a living document. It’s a means of tracking the employee’s progress in their job. This is important because demonstration, both internally and externally of staff competency has become mandatory for accreditation within some countries.

Training and staff appraisals

Given its importance, training should be enshrined as part of the staff appraisal process. It is good practice  at appraisal to:

1. Ask for frank feedback on training given to the staff member, and an assessment of how this improved practice within the scope of the job

2. Identify areas usually two for further training, together with a timetable for completion of any training. This is usually to be undertaken within three to six months of the appraisal

This should be formalised as part of the appraisal documentation that sits in the employee’s Human Resources file.

In summary, I’d just like to say that employees who are well inducted and trained are not only a credit to their employer, enhancing the quality of the service offered, but they are also highly motivated. They know that their organisation values them and invests in them, and they will reciprocate accordingly.

Neil Madden, Editor