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Want to ensure a successful new-hire orientation process? Don’t forget to check in!

By: Casey Czarnowski, BA, CRCST, CSPDT, CIS, CER

May 27, 2020

When I started my first job as an educator in a hospital facility, I had the great fortune to create a position that had not existed before: Sterile Processing Educator. This involved a lot of work! I was new to the facility and new to being solely responsible for the educational and training needs of an entire department. I had only my work experience and my experience as a trainer at the preceptor level to draw from. I was blessed to work under consultants who guided me. As I was dedicating 70 hours a week to learning from the consultants and designing the new-hire training program, I essentially relied on the existing departmental staff to train new hires. I thought my priorities were in the right place, but I was wrong.

Regularly, trainer technicians, supervisors or the new hires themselves would let me know about a facet of onboarding that I had neglected. With despairing frequency, they had to remind me several times before I took care of the issue. Unfortunately, some of our new hires did not last through the four-month orientation period. Though I was not usually the cause of the new employee leaving, I always felt responsible.

I realized I needed to hold a regular check-in meeting with newly-hired staff – and I realized I should have been doing it all along. I worked with departmental leadership to set aside a 30-minute period weekly when I could pull out staff in orientation for the meeting. This gave me a chance to connect with them about their struggles and successes, and it guaranteed them a dedicated opportunity to remind me of those questions or problems that they had asked me about (and that I had not yet fixed). The regular meeting also created a supportive team environment amongst new hires at all points in the orientation period, with those who were further along giving advice and support to those who had just started.

The idea worked well. I began to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of new hires, which was valuable information I could share with the department’s leadership. The new-hire training program, which I had been working on in a vacuum, developed rapidly and was more robust than anything I could have come up with on my own. The new employees developed a strong bond that carried with them beyond their orientation period (and it began to positively influence the culture of the entire department). Finally, the incidence of new hires choosing to leave within their first few months was reduced to zero.

I encourage anyone reading this who is in charge of orientation or new-hire training to establish a regular meeting with their new employees (and do this for the first few months) to assure a healthy orientation period and deepen the work relationships of their staff.

Casey Czarnowski, BA, CRCST, CSPDT, CIS, CER, is the Sterile Processing Educator at Stanford Health Care in the San Francisco Bay area. He also teaches the Central Services Technology program at Skyline College in San Bruno, Calif.