In healthcare, we conveniently divide our employees into two groups: those that take care of patients directly, and those that support the caregivers who take care of patients.
Although I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with this division, it doesn’t help encourage an ecosystem in which a transformational patient experience can flourish. In order to foster the type of culture in which the patient experience rests at the heart of every action, every single person that works for the hospital must understand how they personally contribute to the patient experience. There is no support staff when it comes to the patient experience. Everyone’s effort is crucial.
I once heard the story of how the CEO of Coca Cola would ask random Coca Cola workers, “How do you contribute to Coke’s mission?” It didn’t matter if the person was a salesperson, the driver of a truck, or the payroll clerk. If they couldn’t tie their role back to Coke’s mission he would kindly tell them they either needed to figure it out or find a new company to work for.
So it is in healthcare. Every person contributes to taking care of patients, and every role is as important as the other, from the head of the surgeon team to the Environmental Service worker sanitizing the post operating room where the patient will go to recover: we all contribute to a positive and memorable patient experience that is wrapped in safety, quality, and service.
Even more so, when a patient or family member of a patient is walking the halls, or out in the community, any interaction with a person, badged or not, that leads the conversation back to the organization contributes to their overall experience with that organization. Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., CPXP in his article The Patient Experience Era is Upon Us explains this all encompassing concept that makes up a patient’s experience:
When the people in an organization truly understands how every interaction shapes the patient’s experience, patient centered behaviors emerge, such as:
- Speaking up regarding safety or quality concerns
- Picking up trash–even if it’s not ours
- Smiling at patients and at each other
- Thinking outside of the box for Service Recovery opportunities
So maybe it’s time we get rid of terms like “support staff” or “ancillary staff”. When it comes to patient experience, every single person plays a role. And although one role may spend more time or have more of a direct influence on the patient, every single person who works in a hospital is a critical piece to the overall experience of each individual patient who walks through our doors. In that sense, we are all caregivers.
My call to action today is to be aware and purposeful in helping to create a positive and memorable experience for someone with respect to the specific work you do! I’d love to hear about it!