IHS Successful Retention Practices
Retention Brief
Volume 2
Issue 3
March 2015
You are more likely
to retain staff
members if you
show a genuine
interest in their
individual goals.
A Helping Hand

The IHS Health Professions Support Branch (HPSB) presents the third in this year’s series of Retention Briefs designed to help address the challenge of retaining professional and clinical staff in Indian health facilities. We encourage you to review these cases and to discuss with the leadership team (administration, clinical directors, other leaders, etc.) how you can implement these practices when faced with similar challenges.

In this issue, we’ll examine the challenges of recruiting and retaining staff to work in rural and, sometimes remote, locations.

Cultivate Relationships

Indian health facility directors often find that once the recruitment process is successfully completed, retaining staff for life-long careers can be the next big challenge. By establishing a bond with your staff, either through communication or subtle actions that show your appreciation for their efforts, you demonstrate positive leadership and promote a good working environment.

Likewise, if an employee expresses interest in practicing at another Indian health facility or pursuing a different career path (for example, joining the USPHS Commissioned Corps), rather than be discouraged about losing a staff member, offer to assist him or her by recommending an IHS recruiter for guidance. This way, you can retain the valued clinician during his or her search and show your active support of his or her career. Chances are, your continued care and support could very well encourage the employee to stay.

To sum up, you are more likely to retain staff members if you show a genuine interest in their individual goals. Keep in mind that personal goals often can benefit the Indian health program. And there are bonuses to be had: You can find personal and professional satisfaction in helping others, retain valuable practitioners and permit a practitioner’s career objectives to contribute to the benefit of Indian health.

Communicate Effectively

Understanding how the Indian health system works and using your resources to help guide your employees are key, but you also must always follow through with good communication. Listening to employees, learning about their career goals and helping them to pursue those goals will not only show your appreciation for their skills but also will empower staff members to seek to achieve their objectives within their current Indian health program.

Words to Lead By

Professional development is not reserved for staff. Leaders can learn and grow in their jobs, too. Reading is a good way to pick up new information and benefit from different perspectives. Here are a few books on management that could add to your skill set:

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, Edgar H. Schein. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013.


Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.


Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Adam M. Grant. Penguin Books, 2014.

Don’t forget to check out IHS’ valuable resource for Recruitment and Retention Tools.

Indian Health Service HHS logo IHS logo

The policy of the IHS is to provide absolute preference to qualified Indian applicants and employees who are suitable for federal employment in filling vacancies within the IHS. IHS is an equal opportunity employer.

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