How To Build a Culture of Service

I wake up everyday wanting, and wondering how, to improve healthcare. It’s in the back of my mind as I drive my kids to school, as I go through my day at work, when I’m at home, doing dishes. How do we effectively make a difference?

Of course there are best practices.  Hourly Rounding. Whiteboards. Bedside Shift Report. AIDET.  But how do we incentivize team members  to actually do the things that make a difference to patients and their families while in our care?

As I listen to nurses, the answer becomes all the more clear: we must take care of the caregivers. If their jobs is to take care of patients and families, then our job as their leaders is to take care of them. When I look at the patient experience survey questions,  it’s very easy for me to see how well they would work from an employee engagement standpoint, and I have even encouraged leaders to look at the survey from the standpoint of their team taking it in relation to them:

  • How often do your leaders and colleagues treat you with courtesy and respect?
  • How often do your leaders listen carefully to you?
  • How often  are things explained in a way you understand?
  • Overall, how would you rate your employer? Would you recommend them?

This is not a new concept. There has been lots of research surrounding the idea of the influence of employee satisfaction on patient satisfaction scores. I knew this, but getting on the floor with caregivers and listening to the reality of their day to day has renewed my sense of urgency in what we are doing to serve them.

Pay is not enough. It never has been enough. People are not incentivized by pay. Of course, pay must be adequate to attract talent, but in order to keep it, there must be a sense of meaning and purpose to their work. At the end of the day, for an employee to truly be engaged, they must feel pride about what they do and who they do it with.

So what creates pride?

People feel pride when their voices have been heard, when they see their ideas matter and come to fruition, when they know their voice is valued that they are not a cog in a machine that is replaceable.

People feel pride when they don’t feel micromanaged, but instead are given autonomy to make decisions for the well being of their customers–in our case, patients–and for the team.

People feel pride when they trust and respect the people they work for and with.  Trust and respect is build through relationship: the simple act of getting to know one another.

In their book, A World Gone Social, Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt present this formula as an illustration to reflect the importance of culture as it relates to profits:

Leadership (1%) + Culture (98%) + Service (1%) = Profits
(100% of what allows our company to stay in business)
 (pg. 175)
In business, culture isn’t everything–it’s just everything that matters. (pg. 178)

I care deeply about patients and their experience within the healthcare system. And because I care deeply about patients, my focus has naturally gone deeper beyond the patients and their families to the people who are directly interacting with them everyday. The more we can serve them, the more organically they will better serve our patients.

What about you? What makes you feel pride at work? Do you think serving staff makes a difference in how they serve others? Let me know below!



    1. Thank you for commenting Samantha! I agree; every hand and “heart” as you say (I like that) that a patient interacts with affect their experience, and really their overall healing!


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