Staffing a Hospital Abroad: Canned Best Practices Aren’t Enough

By Jon Hardesty

One of the greatest challenges a health care leader will face is staffing a hospital or an outpatient clinic. When you add an international element, the difficulty is compounded.

Based on my experience as an international hospital chief human resources officer and staffing consultant, here are some recommendations to best address your organization’s needs:

  1. Thoroughly understand the existing barriers. An obvious statement, but barriers come in many forms. Do not forget to look past the readily apparent ones. Cultural and regulatory environments can act as barriers that may hinder the progressive staffing of your facility.
  2. When examining the specific staffing needs of a unit or department, start with the patient’s perspective and trace it through the clinical service lines.
  3. In addressing future needs, examine the region’s educational system: is there adequate manpower being produced locally, or will you need to rely on an expatriate workforce? Look to the local workforce first, as it is their community and ultimately their health care system.
  4. Take all culturally intelligent measures to partner with the regulatory authorities responsible for clinical licensing, intimately understanding all barriers and opportunities and maintaining relationships.
  5. Examine the organization’s staffing needs with a fresh perspective. Conduct a site visit with a team of clinicians and administrators. Develop a standard site visit assessment tool for all site visit team members to use. Target specifics using SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.
  6. Work together as a team to develop a report addressing barriers, opportunities and recommendations, then develop a detailed plan for implementation.
  7. Achieve buy-in from the key stake-holders and follow through on the implementation, making mid-stream adjustments as necessary.

Most important, do not fall into the trap of simply following canned best practices and then wonder why they do not work. You must never lose focus on the importance of local and regional cultures, and the challenges they pose, in determining staffing models and making them work for international health care organizations.

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