Most employees (51 percent) are not engaged at work, according to Gallup research. They feel indifferent and uninspired, which can lead to malaise in the workplace, creating a culture of carelessness, infighting or even bullying among staff.
In hospitals, an unhealthy workplace culture doesn’t just affect staff members; it also affects patients and their families who are spending long hours in that environment. Not only does a culture of carelessness lead to low patient satisfaction scores, but it can also have a negative impact on the health outcomes of patients.
Fortunately, a workplace culture is not a constant: It can be changed. And caregivers on the frontlines are in ideal positions to see the changes that need to be made and start transforming the culture in their own areas, one step at a time.
Culture Change at the Cleveland Clinic
In 2009, despite its reputation for high-level care, The Cleveland Clinic was earning terrible patient satisfaction scores, according to Carol Santalucia, director of service excellence and culture for The Cleveland Clinic. That dismal reputation was driving some patients to other hospitals—but meaningful change would start with the nursing staff. In a recent webinar hosted by The Beryl Institute, Santalucia spoke about the hospital system’s Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. program, a foundational communication model designed to help caregivers provide outstanding service to patients, visitors and fellow caregivers.
With dedicated focus from senior leadership, the hospital’s low scores had improved significantly by 2013. But even before senior leaders at the Cleveland Clinic recognized the cultural changes that needed to be made and got on board with them, Santalucia and others in the trenches were implementing this new communication model with the nursing staff. “We had already done the groundwork and built up enthusiasm from caregivers on the frontline before senior leaders had their ‘Aha moment,’” Santalucia says. “As a leader at the Cleveland Clinic, but not ‘the leader,’ I had the attitude, ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’ So I did what I could at my level to make sure we were engaging our frontline.”
How to Lead Change
At the Cleveland Clinic, nurses were interested in, and even excited about, efforts to communicate better and practice more empathetic care because it gave them the tools to do their jobs better. To truly transform the culture, however, it’s crucial to approach such changes gently and carefully. Consider these five tips from Santalucia for making positive changes from the ground up.
- Don’t wait for top leadership. If the culture on your floor or unit allows bullying among staff members or doesn’t value respectful communication with patients and families, something has to change. Rather than waiting for the CEO to buy into a cultural transformation program, start working on it where you are. Build camaraderie by hosting staff celebrations or discussion groups, implement a communications training program or do whatever you can to start making a difference.
- Focus on building skills. Rather than telling people to communicate openly, take the time to actually teach them how to do it. “Don’t assume that if it’s easy for me, it’s easy for everyone,” Santalucia says. “Focus on sharing skills and tools with your teams.”
- Offer inspiration. In addition to skill building, provide some motivation to get your team on board. “As leaders, it’s up to us to inspire our teams and connect them to the bigger picture of why this work matters,” Santalucia says. “Most of us came into healthcare because we wanted to help people, but eventually the busyness of the job gets in the way of that, so it’s our job to inspire our staff and remind them of why they got into nursing in the first place.”
- Encourage debate. Don’t just focus on pushing your initiative forward; focus on building relationships with others on staff. Think about where they are coming from and why they feel the way they do, especially when it comes to areas where they disagree with you. And don’t avoid discussing the issues at hand: “It’s important to have thought-provoking debates to get better as an organization,” Santalucia says. “Don’t be afraid to take risks.”
- Continue to seek buy-in from top leadership. If you want to convince executive leaders to commit resources to culture change, “put it in terms that make sense to them,” Santalucia says. That means focus on the problems they are trying to solve—such as out-of-control expenses, high turnover or losing patients to other hospitals. Then explain how can you help them overcome these issues.
Culture and effective communication go hand in hand. When hospitals invest in strategies and technologies that improve employee engagement and working conditions for staff, patients win. Does your nurse call system promote teamwork and encourage communication between clinical staff? Our data-driven platform uses smart technology and workflow optimization to enhance nurse call, patient safety, care coordination and alarm management. We also provide messaging capabilities and reporting tools that offer nursing leaders the visibility they need to increase accountability, reduce burnout and improve morale.
Schedule a free consultation with us to learn how our technology can help you make positive, transformative changes that support a more patient-centered culture.