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The staff experience: Employees have human needs too

March 4th, 2014

by Anthony Cirillo

This month's blog post extends from both my January and February posts. In January, I shared how short-sighted financial decisions hurt patient experience.

In February, I discussed my new role as primary caregiver to my mom, suggesting that instead of focusing on patient experience, we should look at the human experience.

One comment on the January post serves as a good segue for the rest of this piece.

"Health and wellness, just as death and dying, affect all of us. Clinicians and administrators share in the wins and defeats in healthcare. As nurses, we need to be in the mix, collaborating with various stakeholders, while holding the hand of another human being to ease their suffering."

[More:]

This human experience is not only about the patients we care for and their caregivers. It also is about the human experience of those who work in the organization.

The recent white paper from The Point of Care Foundation, entitled "Staff Care: How to Engage Staff in the NHS and Why It Matters," brings this point home.

Staff engagement within the U.K.'s National Health System has fallen every year since 2009, rising slightly in 2012. Less than a third of all healthcare workers are actively engaged and only 27 percent of registered nurses are actively engaged, compared with 37 percent of all employed people in the U.K.

The report says that while leadership seems to be committed to employees, staff surveys do not fully reflect it. Only 55 percent would recommend their organization as a place to work. And while 74 percent say they can make improvement suggestions, only 26 percent say senior managers act on it. A quarter of physicians and a third of nurses say they have felt excessive pressure to behave in ways counter to patient care.

Now to the human experience. The report finds staff health and well-being are an important antecedent of patient care performance.

Other findings include:

- Presenteeism, where staff feels pressure to attend work even though they are unwell, affects patient care.

- Patient satisfaction rates were consistently higher in NHS trusts with better rates of staff health and well-being, as measured by injury rates, stress levels, job satisfaction and turnover intention.

- Approximately 30 percent of sickness absence in the NHS is due to stress, and employers spend up to 10 percent of their budget managing the direct and indirect consequences of it.

It's the human experience. We can't expect staff to do more without addressing their own human needs and understanding their lives beyond the workplace.

Here are a couple of telling quotes from the report.

"Culture is influenced by the word, actions and behaviors of those at the top of the organization. But it cannot be shaped in a formal, linear and controlled way. It is just as much shaped by the gossip, the anecdotes, the jokes that people share--and by a variety of people who are influential by virtue of their relationships with others rather than their formal position in the hierarchy."

And this one: "Raising issues about poor care or bullying is intimidating. We need to simplify the processes and get back to the basics of common sense and common courtesy. It takes more than the CEO saying the right things to change a blame culture."

Leaders need to be more in tune with the internal word of mouth not reflected in surveys. When we start looking at the human experience of everyone, we will be better able to both empathize and make the changes that will reinvigorate staff in these times of great change. Common sense and common courtesy--words to live by.

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting, which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He also is the expert guide in Assisted Living for About.com.

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