IHS Retention Briefs | Volume 3 — Issue 1
February 2016
Photo of Employees

“A sense of belonging within the community is a critical aspect in staying with that facility.”


Preparing Your Community for a New Hire

The IHS Division of Health Professions Support (DHPS) is pleased to bring you the first eNewsletter in our Retention Briefs series for 2016. We hope you and your colleagues find this information to be helpful in addressing the challenges of retaining valued health professionals and clinical staff.

The first three issues of this year’s Retention Briefs will focus on preparing your local community to welcome incoming clinicians and their families. Most physicians who work within rural areas and facilities say that a sense of belonging within the community is a critical aspect in staying with that facility. Not surprisingly, family situations, educational and work opportunities and recreational and cultural opportunities are also top factors that influence retention.

A Warm Welcome

Many health professionals new to Indian health facilities are intrigued by the heritage and cultural enrichment Tribal communities provide, as well the unique remote lifestyle that comes with working in a rural area. However, the adjustment period can prove challenging and influence a clinician’s feelings about making an Indian health career a lifelong choice.

Making new clinicians and their families feel welcome within your community starts with you. Taking the time to initiate, acclimate and ensure your new provider and his family are well settled and satisfied within the new surroundings will make a world of difference to them — and to your community in the long run.


Getting the Word Out

If your facility is remote and somewhat off the beaten path, reach out to the local Tribal leaders, school administrators, businesses and civic organizations to arrange introductions with the new hire and his or her family. If you’re located within an area that offers local media coverage (radio or TV broadcast, online or print), consider sending a press release about the new hire to coincide with his or her arrival. Another way to introduce a new hire to the facility and area is through a posting on the hospital or clinic’s social media site.

Ride Along

In addition, you can help a new provider get to know the patient population by organizing a meet-and-greet or ride-along session with a public health nurse or clinician who is intimately familiar with your community lifestyle, culture and health disparities. Many new clinicians are not only surprised to learn that some patients may not have refrigeration for certain medications or may not have running water in their homes, they are grateful to learn this information because it is helpful in determining treatment options, medication regimens and other patient-specific details that will lead to positive patient outcomes.

Reaching Out

Early interaction with and recognition from local community leaders can go a long way toward ensuring a new hire is happy in his or her new surroundings and place of work. In order to facilitate community camaraderie, we recommend sending a letter of introduction from your facility to local community and Tribal leaders.

Success Story — The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leads a successful rural retention program that places significant emphasis on recruiting health care providers who grew up in or completed residencies in rural areas. The VA also suggests providing paid time off each year for providers to engage in missionary work in order to attract individuals who are interested in serving underserved populations. Once a provider is hired, the VA focuses on meeting his or her individual needs like work/life balance, limited on-call time and helping identify opportunities for partners and children within the community. The VA does not recommend enticing providers to serve in a rural facility based on financial incentives alone, believing that this type of employee is more likely to eventually leave the facility for a higher paying opportunity.

Retention Website Updates

If you haven’t had a chance to check out DHPS’ Recruitment and Retention website we recommend you do so soon! The site has been updated with fresh content and a more user-friendly navigation while offering extensive recruitment and retention tools, including a library of published materials and Recruiter Insider and Successful Retention Practices (now Retention Briefs) eNewsletter archives. You’ll also find supporting case studies, reports and internal IHS documents, such as the formatted letters of introduction templates for community leaders, school administrators and businesses mentioned above.

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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