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Celebrate your patient experience all-stars

July 16th, 2013

by Jason A. Wolf

In the heat of the summer many of us are thinking about days by the pool, family vacations or cool drinks. It also brings us, this very week, to Major League Baseball's all-star break.

This has always been an interesting and unique tradition in sports, where rather than waiting until the end of a season to identify and recognize performance, the league stops for a moment to celebrate what has taken place so far.

This pause in the action is a bit like summer itself. An intermission of sorts where time is taken to reflect on what has been accomplished and what is yet to be achieved. The question this raised for me is why this type of break is more difficult for us in organizational life.

I have been a student of organizational dynamics, behavior and culture for most of my career. Perhaps the one lesson I have taken above all else is this: At the end of the day it is our humanity that matters most in organizational life.

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The fact is that organizations are comprised of the wonderfully complex human being. With this, all the strategies and tactics in the world are only as effective and successful as the people we have in place to execute on them.

It is for this reason I am at times confused by how, all too often, we overlook the very individuals we count on to drive our objectives and manage our every interaction. This is no more significant than what I have seen in healthcare. At its core in healthcare, and what I reinforce often, is that we are simply human beings taking care of human beings.

I recently had a chance to speak with a healthcare executive and ask a question about what they had done to celebrate the contributions of their employees lately. The response, though said somewhat jokingly, had a more serious undertone than we probably wish to acknowledge. The individual said, "We pay them every two weeks."

In contrast, I recently visited a number of systems that took time and invested in acknowledging, supporting and recognizing their team members. Whether providing education via participation in a system-wide conference or saying thank you during a simple barbecue with food served by senior leaders, these organizations understood the true power of their people.

The opportunity we have in the healthcare environment is much like, but much more important than, the all-star break. Every day, caregivers in systems around the globe sacrifice, sweat, stretch themselves, shed tears and comfort others in the quest to ensure the best quality, safety and service--the totality of the patient experience.

In this industry, in the healthcare setting, more than any other, we have the opportunity and even the obligation to celebrate those who have supported our accomplishments and achievement. These individuals are our all-stars.

Healthcare organizations need to find time for their own all-star breaks, to pause for a moment to say thank you, to highlight a powerful contribution, to acknowledge a significant outcome--to celebrate in an environment where joy and sadness are often felt in the same breath. We have a significant opportunity in healthcare to consider:

  1. Who are our all-stars? How do we determine and identify what this means for us?
  2. What is our commitment to celebrate these individuals for all the big and small they do to ensure the best environment of care we can create?
  3. How will we take time to acknowledge them? Not for doing what is required, but for stretching our very essence as organizations?

Patient experience outcomes may feel elusive, even soft or hard to grasp for some. If you start with the people you count on to deliver excellent patient experiences every day, you may find a simple yet powerful way to make a difference.

Celebration is not only cheering someone's accomplishment, it is fully acknowledging with feeling and sincerity the impact they have had on you, your organization or others. So find that moment to celebrate, not only during an "all-star break," but in every moment that makes sense for you.

There is so much good done every day in healthcare. It is a shame if we let it simply pass us by.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., is president of The Beryl Institute, where he specializes in organizational effectiveness, service excellence and high performance in healthcare. Follow Jason @jasonawolf and The Beryl Institute @berylinstitute on Twitter.

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