Breakups are never easy. Even if it’s an amicable split, it’s hard not to look back on your time together and wonder what could’ve been. But here’s the good news: if you approach a breakup from a place of maturity and wisdom, you can learn some valuable lessons and apply them to your next relationship. Of course, the relationship I’m referring to in this post is the one between a rehab therapy practice manager and his or her staff providers. But just like the breakups that T-Swift sings about, when a therapist parts ways with your practice, it can be a major curveball—especially if it’s out of the blue. So, to ensure smooth sailing, stick to these essential guidelines:

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Keep your cool.

To start, always abide by the Three C's: cool, calm, and collected. Even if your employee isn’t leaving on the best terms, it’s better to take the high road. After all, you never know how your other staff members may interpret your reaction. And no matter what, make sure you don’t vent your frustrations to patients or other employees. At the end of the day, this is more of a reflection on you than it is on the employee who’s leaving.

Review the employment documents.

Next, make sure you know who owes what to whom—and get your legal counsel on the phone. An attorney or advisor will likely tell you to review the agreement your employee signed at the start of employment. It’s very typical for a provider’s employment contract to include things like:

  • a noncompete clause that’s effective for a period of time after the end of employment,
  • a requirement for extended notice when ending employment, and
  • an agreement to not remove business or medical records from the premises.

In some cases, employment contracts may even include an agreement not to solicit patients or poach other employees, which is especially important in the case of therapists who leave to start their own practices. If the therapist breaks any terms of the employment contract, be sure to speak with your legal counsel for further direction.

Conduct an exit interview.

If possible, find out why the therapist is leaving. His or her reason for departure could represent an opportunity for you to improve your clinic’s values or culture. Many times, a therapist simply finds an opportunity that better aligns with his or her goals. Other times, you may need to reexamine your policies and structure. Perhaps there’s something you could do to prevent other staff members from leaving, too.

Also, make sure that whoever conducts the interview isn’t the employee’s direct supervisor. That way, the employee is more apt to provide honest and complete responses. Here are a few more tips for conducting a good exit interview:

  • Assure the employee that his or her responses will remain private and confidential.
  • Explain that the point of the interview is to uncover any processes that need to be changed.
  • Pay close attention to feedback from valued employees who leave.

Maintain continuity of care.

In the rehab therapy industry, providers tend to form bonds with their patients. After all, rehab therapists are incredibly hands-on compared to other healthcare professionals. That said, providers don’t own their patients. Ultimately, the patient chooses which therapist he or she sees, and patients may choose to follow their providers when they move to a different practice.

Typically, in the case of a planned departure, the therapist will notify his or her patients ahead of time. But if the departure is unexpected, that responsibility will fall to you. So, notify each patient of the therapist’s departure and ask if the patient would be willing to reschedule with another provider. You can do this over the phone or by email.

Fill the vacancy—stat!

If you’re already short-staffed, the last thing you want to do is create even more work for your other therapists. So, when you lose a clinician unexpectedly, you’ve got to fill the vacancy ASAP. But as any hiring manager knows, the hunt for talent isn’t typically an overnight process. Plus, you don’t want to hire the wrong person just to fill the vacancy. That leads to turnover, which could end up costing you more in the long run.

Instead, consider enlisting the help of a staffing agency. Then, you can continue your search for the right person without forcing your other providers to pick up the slack in the meantime. Plus, if it turns out the temp provider jibes with your team and clinic culture, you may even be able to bring him or her on as a permanent hire.

Ramp up your referral game.

While most employment contracts have a noncompete clause, you should still expect to lose a few patients anytime a provider leaves your practice. So, take that opportunity to shake up your marketing campaigns to attract referrals and make up for the potential dropout. You don’t even have to shell out extra money to boost your efforts. They can be as simple as reaching out to your best referral sources and letting them know you’re accepting new patients—or advertising special deals or wellness services on social media.

No matter how a business relationship ends, you can always walk away with a few lessons learned—especially if you handle the situation with poise and pragmatism. Do you have any tips that have come in handy when therapists have left your organization? Share them with us in the comment section below!

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