The best approaches to change come from the front lines. Healthcare organizations are now beginning to understand that workplace safety, both physical and psychological, is a precondition for patient safety and quality outcomes. Staff experience and patient experience should be inextricably linked in the culture and language of any organization.
Much has begun to happen on this front. Cultures of excellence are being further defined to include core values of mutual respect and civility. Hospital Corporation of America, which operates hundreds of hospitals and employs thousands of people, incorporates surveys, forums and advisory groups into its mission to have a happy and well-treated workforce. It also tracks staff productivity, turnover and engagement to help identify problems before they spiral.
Southeast Alabama Medical Center has adopted what it calls a ‘pay it forward’ scheme. Each month, the department with the highest patient satisfaction scores is recognized by the administrative team. It’s then asked to nominate the support department that helped it the most (for example, HR for helping them hire the right people) to ensure that non-clinical departments feel part of the hospital’s achievements.
Paul O’Neill, former chairman and CEO of Alcoa and a co-author of the original LLI paper on this topic, has a simple litmus test for organizations that speaks to workforce experience. He proposes that every member of the workforce should be able to answer ‘yes’ to these three questions every day:
- Am I treated with dignity and respect by everyone I encounter, everyday, without regard to race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation, title, pay grade or number of degrees?
- Do I have the things I need: education, training, tools, financial support, encouragement, so I can make a contribution to this organization that gives meaning to my life?
- Am I recognized and thanked for what I do?
As we think about the need to ensure that healthcare workers are well taken care of so that they may best take care of our patients, it brings to mind the safety talk given at the beginning of every commercial flight – when passengers are told put on their own oxygen mask before helping others. The healthcare workforce needs its oxygen mask. We have to do better at providing it.