Changing Hospital Culture…Part I

service cultureHow does one define culture? Culture consists of group norms of behavior and the underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place. For example, why does almost everyone show up to work between 8:55 and 9:05? Is it because management has mandated it, or that people are afraid that they will be fired if they don’t? That’s just the way it is. It’s a group norm. People are generally hired who embrace the values of a particular company’s culture, including the value of showing up to work and meetings on time. Because culture can be so entrenched in our respective workplaces, it’s virtually impossible to change. While it isn’t easy to change the culture of any company, in this blog, I will take a look at some strategies for changing floundering hospital culture.

Hospitals need to create a culture of continuous learning, teamwork and transparency to keep workers, and therefore patients, feeling safe and happy. With a positive workforce culture in mind, hiring should be based on attitude and fit. A hospital system in San Diego incorporates its values of respect, quality and efficiency into the interviewing process to ensure the facility remains a great place to work. Implementing your culture early in the hiring process is a key step in ensuring a culture of patient safety to prevent avoidable patient deaths. Joe Kiani, founder of The Patient Safety Movement Foundation said, “Creating a culture of safety begins with one solution, one commitment, one hospital, one act of kindness and love, and one patient at a time.”

A healthcare system must also implement regular feedback mechanisms in the early stages of an employee’s tenure. The organization should check in with new hires after 30, 60, and 90 days, using these opportunities to assess whether the recruit is adapting to and thriving in the organization’s culture. The healthcare system should also continue to provide ongoing training and development, giving refresher courses about the vision and culture every 12 to 18 months. With leadership’s support, these engaged employees become ambassadors for the patients’ priorities.

In addition to ensuring the most competent employees are hired, many health care systems also aim to deliver a high level of customer service. Unfortunately, many systems are falling short on that goal. Truly improving service demands a culture that intentionally champions a focus on the patient. Managers must be equipped to drive employee engagement in their departments.

What healthcare systems urgently need are clear intentions and strategies at the leadership level. These will determine whether a service mindset can exist within a hospital. What’s more, getting employees engaged and connected to this mission will ultimately determine whether they live out that mindset each day. A recent Gallup poll found that a service-centered culture requires:

  • a committed leadership team that champions a philosophy that is aligned with service
  • employee commitment to providing outstanding service and quality
  • the strategic alignment of the organization’s plan, policies, and procedures with the goal of being service-focused
  • an established process to document and disseminate organizational knowledge and efficiencies
  • an ongoing commitment to improving performance and using proven tactics

After proper onboarding, a healthcare system must align its human resources policies to encourage service excellence and hold employees accountable to the standards. Managers must be equipped to drive employee engagement in their departments and held accountable for action planning and knowledge sharing. Aligning these activities with the hospital’s larger strategic plan and organization-wide goals is crucial and should be transparent from leadership down to the front line. One of the greatest challenges in any modern and multi-location system is that pockets of excellence exist, but best practices are rarely shared across units. Maintaining open and intentionally structured communication is a means to spread great customer service across an organization.

As I was writing this blog, I realized that the subject of culture is too broad for one post. In part two, we will pick up where we left off. In the meantime, please check out this great example of how a floundering hospital culture was turned around.

Thank You for Reading!

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Posted on April 21, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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