Starting New Programs: Great Teams, Great Results

When helping customers open new programs, one of the most important goals we have is to create environments where recovery can thrive. (Click here for a quick overview of how we bring programs to life.)

Without question, great teams help create great results. But how do you create great teams, especially during start-up when you have to hire a lot of staff at once and have a lot of other priorities competing for your attention? 

Marissa Elliott, Start-Up Program Administrator, and Telecare's start-up team have offered four strategies below that have been particularly helpful at Telecare. 
“Starting with nothing, and watching a building be designed or renovated and furnished; watching all the policies come into place, all the people hired, the training occur, watching it open and have patients come in and be treated well and know that you’re providing safe and excellent care — there’s really no feeling like that,” said Marissa. “It’s kind of an amazing privilege to watch and be a part of the whole process.”

4 Strategies to Create a Great Recovery Team

1. Have clinical experts on the hiring panel.

From the moment Telecare is awarded a program, our human resources department starts working with the start-up team to begin recruiting. Candidates are pre-screened and vetted first by the HR team. Then, they are reviewed by a specialized team of clinical experts from a variety of mental health backgrounds. The team's hands-on expertise makes it easier for them to identify candidates that are a strong fit for the exact needs of the job. We look at both skills and recovery mindset to find our best candidates.
“I started out as a mental health worker in a psychiatric facility, I then went on to being a nurse, a charge nurse, then a manager,” said Marissa. “So for a mental health worker or recovery specialist in an acute program, I know they need to understand how important it is to have eyes on a patient at all times and provide interaction. For the nurses, I need to make sure they understand they are in charge of a unit and need to make sure the unit stays safe at all times.”

2. Bring leaders on early to help establish a strong recovery culture.

To build a culture conducive to recovery and in line with customer and Telecare standards, we hire program leadership positions up to one month earlier than all other staff. This enables these new program leaders to shadow a more seasoned leader in a sister program at Telecare. There, they get to see how things work in a program similar to the one they'll be running. They also learn about the recovery approach at Telecare, including our attention to power dynamics, respect, non-judgment, individual uniqueness, and motivation. This helps them create a strong recovery culture with their own staff during orientation.
“When you find that fit, when you find someone who believes in Telecare and who is willing to take the reins, understands that patient safety is important, who wants to be involved and who wants to do a good job, it’s a huge sigh of relief and sense of accomplishment,” said Marissa.

3. Invest in tailored orientations that help teams bond, learn, and prepare.

Orientation is a critical time to build a team, develop skills, and prepare new staff for the hands-on work of serving clients and managing the day-to-day elements of a successful program. Telecare's program orientations include many segments and are tailored based on the program type. Staff are trained in CPI, have a refresher course in psychology, and learn our methods on treatment planning, substance abuse counseling, and documentation. The bulk of the orientation is done before a program opens, but we’ve also learned that a few components are better taught after a program opens its doors and staff are more familiar with how Telecare operates.
Orientation is always tailored to the type of program, the location, and the mix of the staff we hire. If it’s an ACT program it's going to be very community-focused,” said Marissa. “When we’re in a PHF, we’re talking about safety on the unit and how you look for things that could be risk areas for the patients. We tailor it constantly and change it to the environment and needs of the customer and community.”

4. Put really good support systems in place. 

To be successful in the long-term, a program needs to work well on multiple levels: clinical, community relations, technological, financial, regulatory, staffing, training, etc. To help programs succeed, Telecare relies on corporate supports that can help take some of the load off program leaders and staff so they they can stay focused on the critical work of serving clients. These corporate supports are put in place during the first phase of start-up, but stay with the programs indefinitely, after they've transitioned into stand-alone operations. 
“Telecare comes in and works not only with the customer, but also with the local community and its stakeholders to help establish the program and better understand and connect with the community we're serving." said Rae Hendriksz, Start-Up Project Manager. "We provide good scaffolding from HR support, IT support, financial support, and we also have a team that researches the federal, state, and local regulations thoroughly.”