The pandemic has been stressful for doctors, nurses and office staff at Marque Medical’s seven urgent care offices.
They weren’t only busy treating a wave of sick patients while trying to contain COVID-19’s spread. They needed to protect themselves as well from spreading the life-threatening disease to their families.
And yet, they did it. Day in and day out.
“We’ve had a lot of uncertainty in the medical industry,” said Pierre Bergougnan, Marque Medical’s CEO and founder. “And I’m proud that people were able to show up to work every day, get through adversity and get through some pretty tough times … when they themselves are probably concerned about their health and their family’s health.”
The Irvine-based company ranked second out of 77 companies in the mid-sized category in this year’s Top Workplaces program, where employees nominate their own companies for the honor. It’s the eighth straight year Marque Medical ranked among the top winners.
In a survey, many of the employees who touted Marque as a top place to work said they love their job. One employee wrapped it up this way: “I feel like I make a difference.”
And that’s exactly how Bergougnan wants his employees to feel.
“You’ve got to continually remind your employees about the fact that they’re invaluable,” he said. “They’re part of something that is very meaningful to the community. There’s not a whole lot more personal to a family than their health and wellness.”
Bergougnan said the company takes many steps to let employees know they’re valued. That includes regularly acknowledging their good work, offering rewards like gift cards and catered lunches and marking milestones like birthdays and anniversaries with the company.
Marque offers employees merit increases “based on several factors, including obviously market adjustments if they were given more responsibility in their position or moved up to another position. They’re not automatic but on a case-by-case basis.” The company does not offer employees automatic annual cost-of-living increases.
Like others in the medical service industry, the company has at times faced the challenge of finding workers like nurses or X-ray technicians. But Marque has the advantage that its own employees recommend the urgent care clinics to their friends and acquaintances in the field, Bergougnan said.
“We’re not typically looking the traditional route of recruiting companies,” he said. “A lot of times, a great medical assistant knows another great medical assistant looking for a job and refers them.”
The Register talked with Bergougnan about his company’s growth, the challenges of working in the health service industry during a pandemic and how he motivates his employees during difficult times. Here are some highlights of that conversation, edited for length.
Q: What can you tell us about your company’s growth? What’s new and different?
A: We are planning new locations throughout Orange County. We look to the communities that we think are either medically underserved or not being serviced correctly by existing medical groups’ urgent care operators.
Q: We’ve now entered the fourth year of the pandemic. What have you done to keep your employees safe?
A: Employee safety has been a very huge concern for ours… There were a lot of unknowns about the disease. And it was very difficult to be treating patients with COVID and not fully understand how that could affect the long-term health or short-term health of our employees. So we’re always making sure that we are offering protections to them.
For example, if someone were to present at Marque urgent care with COVID-like symptoms, we would offer a rapid test for that patient outside before they come into the clinic…We were very vigilant about wearing masks in the clinic, about doing COVID testing for patients. And we are making sure that physicians and staff have the appropriate masks and personal protective equipment.
Q: Do you mandate face coverings now of either employees or people who come in?
A: We mandate that our staff wear masks. And we request that patients wear masks while in the clinic. We don’t mandate that but we request it.
Q: What about vaccinations of employees? What are your protocols?
A: We highly encourage all employees be vaccinated and to the best of my knowledge, pretty much everybody is.
Q: Is there in general anything different in your business model approach compared to other urgent care facilities?
A: The model is a patient-centric model. It starts with the patient encounter and finishes with a patient encounter.
Everything that we’re doing within our model revolves on how do we offer the best urgent care experience possible to the patient — how do we get them in and out as fast as possible?
To do that we’ll use things such as booking appointments online, (optional) virtual medicine, a pediatric service line through Children’s Hospital, which is unique. And we offer nice, clean facilities that are modern and they’re new. And they’re run by employees that believe in our vision and are very loyal to Marque. And because of that, they offer exceptional care to the patients.
Q: What’s your advice to other managers, especially as we continue to work during these challenging times?
A: My advice to managers would be to set a vision for your employees to believe in because the next many years are unpredictable and you have to be able to articulate something better than day-to-day tasks for your employees to feel like they’re part of something bigger. They got to feel like they’re part of the vision of a company and that they’re growing that vision.