Resource Corner Blog

Without proper staffing, open access crumbles like a game of Tetris


I love Tetris. There’s something incredibly satisfying about figuring out exactly where each little block fits best into the big picture. Yet, it can also be stressful (or maybe I’m just taking it too seriously). Misplacing one block can throw you off enough that another block is misplaced, and then another block until it’s game over.

Staffing your open access system is just like Tetris except you’re placing people not blocks, and there’s more than your pride at stake. Open access, offering services to clients on the day they request them, can be a big adjustment for your staff and often requires reshuffling current workers to new areas.

Spread Out Your Staff Members Evenly

The main goal of staffing your open access is making sure that your clinicians and other workers are spread evenly. You don’t want too many staff members in one area of your agency and not enough in another.

The first step in staffing your open access is to collect data about your busiest days and times. By collecting this data first, you can choose open access hours during a time that a lot of your staff would have been free anyway. This avoids overscheduling and stressing out your staff members.

Have a “Floor General”

There a few different options when placing your staff members in your open access office. Some programs have one clinician whose responsibility is to handle open access walk-in clients. Others have a rotation of clinicians to fill this role. Those who have only certain time frames for open access will have all clinicians serve in this role.

There should also be a staff member who is acting as the “floor general.” This individual does not have to be a trained clinician; however, they must be accessible and personable to set the client at ease. It is their job to make sure that individuals are being seen by clinicians and no one is forgotten.

Always Have a Plan B

No matter how carefully you plan for and staff your open access time, there will be days when something goes wrong. It’s important to have a Plan B for when this happens. There are a few options to consider:

  • Use a clinician who is free due to a cancellation or no show.
  • Schedule clinician supervision time during open access hours so these clinicians could be pulled if necessary.
  • Have a supervisor see a client.
  • Offer the client priority time during the next open access hours. *This should be a last resort.

Being prepared to implement these options will make sure that an overflow of clients will not result in chaos at your clinic.

Train Your Staff

To help your clinic function with open access hours, make sure that your staff is trained so that there is flexibility and the ability to change roles.

The “floor general” or front desk point of contact should be trained with the staff to emphasize the most effective initial questions when greeting a client or speaking with them on the phone. Clinicians should be trained on evidence based and outcome focused tools that meet regulatory needs and evaluate the open access process for ongoing revision.

Follow this advice and you can be sure to successfully implement open access among your staff members. Just take it one Tetris block at a time.

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