Practice Management

Designing an effective onboarding program


The personnel

Effective onboarding should be more than mere orientation. Group leaders should make an active attempt at understanding the core values and needs of the group. A good onboarding process assists new hires to internalize and accept the norms of the group. This process is not just a result of what comes from top management but also what they see and hear from the rank and file providers in the group. Hence it is critical to have the right people who understand and embody these values at the planning table. It is equally essential that necessary time and resources are devoted to building a program that meets the needs of the group. The practice management committee at SHM interviewed five different programs across a spectrum of settings. All of them had a designated onboarding program leader with a planning committee that included the administrative staff and senior frontline hospitalists.

The costs

According to one estimate, the cost of physician turnover is $400,000-$600,000 per provider.2 Given such staggering costs, it is not difficult to justify the financial resources required to structure an effective onboarding program. Activities such as a detailed facility tour, a welcome breakfast, and a peer buddy system cost virtually nothing. They go a long way in building comradery, make new hires feel like they are part of a team, and reduce burnout and turnover. Costs of an onboarding program are typically related to wages during shadowing and clinical ramp-up. However, all the programs we interviewed acknowledged that the costs associated with onboarding, in the broader context, were small and necessary.

The bottom line

An effective onboarding program that is well planned, well structured, and well executed is inherently valuable. It sends a positive signal to new hires, reassuring them that they made a great decision by joining the group. It also reminds the existing providers why they want to be a part of the group and its culture.

It is not about what is said or done during the onboarding process or how long it lasts. It need not be overly complicated. It is how the process makes everyone feel about the group. At the end of the day, like in all aspects of life, that is what ultimately matters.

The SHM Practice Management Committee has created a document that outlines the guiding principles for effective onboarding with attached case studies. Visit the SHM website for more information:

Dr. Irani is a hospitalist affiliated with Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass. He would like to thank Joshua Lapps, Luke Heisenger, and all the members of the SHM Practice Management Committee for their assistance and input in drafting the guiding principles of onboarding and the case studies that have heavily inspired the above article.


1. Carucci R. To Retain New Hires, Spend More Time Onboarding Them. Harvard Busines Review. Dec 3, 2018.

2. Franz D. The staggering costs of physician turnover. Today’s Hospitalist. August 2016.


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