Patients are walking billboards for your health care organization. Therefore, if you want to ensure and spread a positive message, having an excellent health care culture can help create the right atmosphere not only for patients, but for your staff, as well.
“If a health care organization doesn’t create a culture in which workers feel positive about where they work, it impacts patients,” says Patricia Reid, clinical nurse specialist and vice president of Health Care Education Initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College. “The health care environment is stressful. It’s important the organizational culture values the work that nurses and other ancillary caregivers provide. If the providers of care are not valued or lack the support of management, that dissatisfaction can indirectly be conveyed to patients. In today’s world, hospitals are graded by consumers through a nationally standardized satisfaction survey. These scores play a crucial role for hospitals, as they are publicly reported and available to all consumers of health.”
Smart Business spoke with Reid about how creating the right culture can increase patient satisfaction and lower staff turnover.
How are health care workers being trained to create a positive patient experience?
Today’s emphasis in health care is on a positive patient experience. Forty years ago, when patients were hospitalized, they were cared for and there was little emphasis on cost. With a greater awareness of health, and as costs have increased, so have patient expectations. Patients are more knowledgeable about their health and have become more discriminate in seeking care. Conversely, hospitals are being judged on the quality, safety and patient satisfaction within their institutions.
The Internet now provides a forum for patients to share both their good and bad health care experiences. They are demanding quality care. Health care workers are no longer caring for novice patients who are not knowledgeable of their health or the expectation of the hospital experience. Many patients come armed with suggestions of treatments or medications that may help in their care.
Health care is a much more collaborative environment and health care providers want to ensure patients understand why a particular treatment they may be asking for may or may not be appropriate for them. It’s important that care is collaborative and respectful for both patients and providers in order to support the highest quality of care and satisfaction for the patient.
Why is increasing patient satisfaction and lowering staff turnover so important to a health care facility’s quality of care?
Due to the recession, health care has not experienced the turnover it had experienced previously. Although there may be some higher attrition rates in the lower salary bands, there are many graduates in health care fields continuing to seek jobs. We will continue to see more hiring, and some predict a shortage as current health care workers continue to age.
The more turnover an organization has, the less consistency patient units will have on a day-to-day basis. In addition, there’s a lot of knowledge within a tenured staff that has been employed 10, 15 or 20 years, versus a new graduate. Most important, as new graduates come into the field of health care, it’s critical that experienced workers are available to assist the more novice workers in their roles. The culture of health care is about helping transform young staff into mature, confident health care workers. If there isn’t an expert they can go to, they must rely on their own knowledge, which can lead to mistakes.
Health care institutions also need to ensure that the more mature health care worker is knowledgeable about current trends in quality, safety and satisfaction, as many were not trained in these newly defined concepts. Health care workers must understand why patient satisfaction is so paramount to the quality of care. It’s more than just a score; it’s what the organization should be about.
Health care workers want to provide the best possible care. However, today they are being judged through quantitative measures, which is much different than 40 years ago.
What tools can those in the health care industry use to create this kind of positive culture?
It’s very important to train people in the educational setting, not just on the skills of taking care of patients but on how you provide quality care from a business perspective. Do you treat patients with respect? Are you efficient in answering their concerns? It truly is a reflection of a hospital’s culture, and you need to make sure all employees want patients to say, ‘That’s the best care I’ve ever received,’ regardless of the treatment or outcome.
How can people learn more?
On June 26, Corporate College presents ‘Disney Institute: Building a Culture of Health Care Excellence.’ The workshop covers leadership skills in the context of the Disney culture. It stresses that whoever you meet, whoever you greet, should have a positive experience. To achieve that, you have to be knowledgeable about your organization and everybody has to have the same goal. Not only does that create a good experience for the patient, but people feel good about working for that organization.
Today’s health care institutions are concerned about their staff-to-patient ratios and the bottom line, but just as much emphasis needs to be placed on the staff. Those on the front line providing patient care are the heart of the organization and they need to feel valued. The organization must recognize those who provide exceptional care and not lose these health care providers. Unfortunately, we commonly promote those with excellent bedside skills to management, instead of rewarding them monetarily to continue to do what they do well. Great caregivers eventually reach their maximum pay grade and the only option is a promotion to management, despite their desire to remain at the bedside. Organizations must rethink the paradigm and consider what truly makes a great organization and reward excellent providers so they can remain in that critical caregiving role.
Patricia Reid is a clinical nurse specialist and vice president of Health Care Initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College. Reach her at (216) 987-4659 or Patricia.Reid@tri-c.edu. To register for the Disney workshop, call (866) 933-5167 or email Patricia.Reid@tri-c.edu.
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