Why a great employee orientation experience in healthcare matters

August 31, 2020

Duncan Paradice

Duncan Paradice COO, climber, surfer, lawyer.

A great orientation experience in healthcare isn’t the empty promise it may have been once, but few would argue it’s been a long time coming.

Long established approaches to orientation, frequently characterised by a heavy focus on organisational requirements, poor transmission of clinical and compliance processes, and a failure to connect – whether through people or culture – may be recognised as unsatisfactory by most.

However, implementing change to address the key challenges isn’t always the logical next step in healthcare organisations. Even in the knowledge that orientation is often the first and biggest opportunity to make an impression on a new starter and bring them into a positive organisational culture, change can be slow.

Resistance is often found in the limited bandwidth of those responsible for the orientation process, as well as ineffective implementation. It’s also found in the absence of understanding and appreciation of the alternative’s value, namely a great orientation experience in healthcare.

A great orientation experience requires more than good intentions

Whether you’re a Junior Medical Officer (JMO), Graduate Nurse, Allied Health professional, Medical Administrator/Educator, or Senior Executive, it’s likely you’ve had at least one orientation experience that fell short of expectations. There’s a good chance too, your orientation didn’t provide what was needed to perform your role in a safe, effective way.

Unfortunately, you’re in good company.

Statistics around the employee orientation experience in healthcare are concerning. Without sufficient planning, timing and investment, orientation is less strategy, more good intention.Take the well documented ‘January Effect’1 as just one example. Studies have linked increased healthcare complications with newly graduated doctors commencing their next phase of training.

Starting a new job at any time can be challenging and stressful. For a JMO, and indeed all training clinicians, this experience is ‘on repeat’ multiple times over two years. Exposure to different departments, specialties, and even several hospitals can take its toll without sufficient and accessible education on compliance and processes. Clinician wellbeing and confidence are affected too, as learning and decision fatigue set in.

In Australia alone, a single mistake made by approximately 7,000 PGY 1 and 2 doctors2 over five rotations over a year is conservatively estimated to cost as much as $70 million3.

What is the key finding for Australian healthcare quality arising from this research? Fifty percent of adverse events are preventable4. On numbers alone, this is an outcome that is at total odds with healthcare’s quadruple aims: Improve patient experience, clinician wellbeing and population health, while reducing per capita costs.

A great employee orientation is personal

The figures quoted above don’t account for the cost of other challenges associated with an orientation experience that falls short. Among the most significant of these is the failure to engage.

A crucial factor in shaping culture, learning/education outcomes, and confidence building, active engagement allows a complex healthcare organisation like a large hospital to  create a sense of belonging. Even measures as simple as learning new starters’ names and a key fact about them humanizes the orientation process, allowing connection to be made.

But a great employee orientation is about more than making your people feel good. It’s about facilitating integration, which is “a more aspirational goal – [that is] doing what it takes to make the new person a fully functioning member of the team as quickly and smoothly as possible.”5

These considerations, together with stronger teams and meaningful support given by more experienced peers or ‘buddies’, are vital for establishing a platform from which positive, happy employees enjoy the psychological safety found in the right learning environment. Moreover, commitment around a well communicated central vision or goal is strengthened. Higher retention, evidenced as measurably reduced turnover and all its inherent costs follows, as does a culture of improved performance.

It’s these kinds of bottom line outcomes that are a direct result of a great orientation experience in healthcare, and it holds appeal for the hospital C-suite and management with an appetite for doing more and better with less.

What does a great orientation experience in healthcare mean in a COVID-19 world?

In the wake of every disaster, the post-mortem inevitably focuses on communications, and the healthcare sector’s response to COVID will be no different.

We’ve all seen how the pandemic has highlighted the imperative for distributing clear and precise protocols to thousands of frontline clinicians. What’s also clear is that where limitations already exist, these will be exacerbated; in some cases, even short circuiting the orientation protocol in favour of getting people to work more quickly.

Approaching employee orientation like this at any time, but especially during a medical crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, is the fast track to costly clinical, operational, and financial mistakes.

The good news is healthcare organisations can capitalise on advances in technology.

A digital orientation process delivered via an app downloaded to an employee’s smartphone not only supports a great orientation experience, it also addresses the other significant challenges presented by COVID.

Med App offers such a solution, with its rapid implementation in 12 hospitals during the COVID pandemic proving no compromise at orientation or quality management is necessary, even in a challenging disaster environment.

Offering a safe and secure avenue for dissemination of information, rapid orientation of existing and new staff, and targeted competency training and upskilling, Med App is demonstrating opportunities to enhance the orientation experience and quality improvement exist, not only within the COVID crisis, but beyond it as well.

Are you looking for ways to create a great orientation experience in healthcare, or just wanting to strengthen your organisation’s response to navigating the COVID crisis with more confidence? The Med App team can support organisations like yours with its offline-accessible, mobile first tool designed to simplify access to clinical and hospital guidelines, clinician communication, and employee education and training. Learn more about Med App  or book a demonstration  with our team.


1 Why you should avoid hospitals in January (Grattan Institute 2018)

2 Based on predicted 2021 internship positions (AMSA Internship Guide 2020)

3 National Hospital Cost Data Collection Report, Public Sector, Round 22 – Financial Year 2017-18 (Feb 2020)

4 Quality in Australian Health Care Study (MJA, 1995)

5 Helping your team feel purpose in their work (HBR, Oct 2019)


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