The Duke Eye Center is busy, and they’re growing - a lot. With plans to expand into a new building on Duke’s campus in the next three years, and to launch a new electronic health records system in 2013, Duke Eye is managing extraordinary logistical challenges on top of running one of the top hospitals for Ophthalmology in the country (Duke was ranked 7th in US News and World Report in 2012).
Yet in the face of so much change and the many challenges associated with growth, Duke has managed to maintain a fully staffed clinic for the first time in years. We know that staffing may be the single biggest obstacle facing any eye care practice today. As the United States faces a severe shortfall of physicians and health care providers over the next 15 years, the rate at which eye care professionals are produced can’t match the pace of demand for their services. So what’s the secret to Duke’s success?
The answer lies in a strategy they adopted about 4 years ago. A commitment to recruiting proactively and targeting trained eye care professionals from all over the country has enabled Duke to take control of staffing their clinics. It all started when they signed up with Local Eye Site (LocalEyeSite.com).
Before using Local Eye Site, Duke faced persistent difficulty finding and hiring certified technicians. Often they would attempt to recruit staff through their own training program, but with too few technicians matriculating each year, and many of them moving on to different practices all over the country, it never became a reliable source for recruiting. They also tried the old tactics of headhunters, newspaper ads, and word of mouth, but theses methods were also inconsistent, often expensive, and most of all, ineffective.
It was about four years ago when Evelyn Kelly, Health Center Administrator of Duke Eye Center, came in to contact with Local Eye Site. She soon realized that Local Eye Site could afford her consistent access to one of the largest pools of talent in eye care. I sat down with her recently to discuss what’s changed for Duke since then, and what’s helped them become so successful.
“We started consistently putting an ad out on Local Eye Site [...] making it known that we hire people from all over the country, it’s given us a lot of exposure” she said. And the resumes started pouring in. Things changed for Duke as soon as they realized they could recruit throughout the year, consistently advertising the positions they knew would become needs later on. Beginning a search only after a position opens up puts a lot of pressure on finding the right candidate at exactly the right time. By tapping a pool of qualified talent consistently, Evelyn is able to recruit qualified candidates more effectively. “Even if we don’t have a position open immediately, we’ll interview anyway,” she said, referring to the phone interviews she’s become so adept at conducting over the years. Not only has she become an expert at evaluating an applicant’s potential fit for a position over the phone, she has developed a method for recording details of every applicant with whom she’s had contact. By creating these detailed records, Evelyn can access her own list of potential candidates immediately and keep track of available talent throughout the year.
By fielding applications year-round, performing phone interviews, and keeping detailed notes on each applicant, Duke has put together a pipeline of talent they can tap in to whenever an immediate opening becomes available. “We can be really flexible,” says Evelyn, “we don’t need a firm start date, which gives us a better chance to work with the schedule of the candidate we want.”
And as Evelyn has found out, the candidate you want doesn’t always live in your hometown - but that doesn’t mean people haven’t been willing to relocate. Far from it, according to Evelyn: “I think people are more transient today, more willing to move.” The list of employees Duke has hired recently through Local Eye Site reads like a map of the United States, “Florida, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Maryland,” Evelyn notes, “I don’t know why people are uncomfortable with recruiting from out of state. The benefits are that they’re trained, they’re certified, and they bring ideas from other parts of the country and from other practices that you may not think of, and it adds to your diversity.”
The results have been remarkable for Duke so far. “I’d say about 90% of our staff has been hired through Local Eye Site” (the only exceptions being students hired internally). Nearly all of the staff hired at Duke in the last year has come through Local Eye Site, and many of them have come from outside of North Carolina.
Yet perhaps as important as identifying and hiring so many qualified candidates is holding on to them long-term. This hasn’t been a problem for Evelyn: “we haven’t had anyone that we’ve hired though Local Eye Site that has left,” she says, “we’re fully staffed, and we’re retaining our employees.” Lower turnover means that Evelyn and Duke have utilized Local Eye Site with such success that they’ve actually decreased some of the need to recruit so aggressively. But Evelyn isn’t going to get complacent. She’s as excited as we are about some of the newest offerings from Local Eye Site, especially our relationship with the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN) and further expansion across the entire Power Network.
With so many positions to fill - Ophthalmic Technicians, Front Desk staff, Medical Records staff, Medical Support Supervisors, Registered Nurses, and more - Duke has found no more consistent source of qualified candidates than Local Eye Site. And no matter what the position, the philosophy remains the same. By maintaining a consistent presence in front of job seekers and making contact with qualified applicants, Duke has been able to fully develop a pipeline of talent. Ultimately this affords both Duke and the job seeker flexibility and helps Duke anticipate and manage future hiring needs in a way that simply wasn’t possible before.