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A Healthcare Facility’s Magic Wand

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

For healthcare facilities — hospitals, nursing homes, surgical centers, etc. — there are plenty of issues that impact the financial bottom line and an organization’s overall well-being.

If you were a healthcare executive with a magic wand, what are the things you would want to pull out of the proverbial magic hat in order to ensure your organization’s survival and success? Here are some ideas to consider.

1. Employee retention strategies

Employee retention is crucial for a healthcare facility or agency to function like the well-oiled machine it needs to be. Attrition is expensive, as is screening and onboarding applicants, and the ability to hold onto talented staff members is financially prudent and a boon for organizational culture.

Nurses, physicians, PTs, and surgeons are important to retain, but attention needs to be paid to the retention of food service staff, IT, the environmental team, and others who keep the lights on, the floors cleaned, and staff and patients fed.

These less visible staff members must also be treated well and retained. What would your magic wand pull out of thin air for employee retention?

2. Organizational nimbleness

Many organizations get mired in the past and lose sight of their mission. A frequently used refrain might be, "Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it." Being able to read the tea leaves and anticipate the future is essential.

For instance, those healthcare facilities that were or have been slow to adopt electronic medical records have probably found themselves behind the eight-ball.

Healthcare is built on change (think HCAHPS scores and the rise of artificial intelligence and robotics) – those organizations who can nimbly roll with the changes are ahead of the curve.

3. Positive workplace culture

Organizational culture may be a buzzword, but it could not be more important. It takes powerful magic to change an institution’s entrenched culture, but this is essential to success.

With bullying being a major issue in nursing, a smart healthcare executive would nip that issue in the bud by instituting a zero-tolerance policy against aberrant behavior that undermines individual and collective morale and culture.

Institutional culture certainly pertains to staff behavior, but it falls on executives and leaders to consider how a positive culture can be birthed and maintained.

Organizational culture should be of great interest to those individuals at the helm of healthcare organizations of any size. Much magic can happen when culture receives its due.

4. Patients and their families matter

As much as we focus on employee retention, organizational culture, and nimbleness, we also must remember that serving patients is the ultimate purpose and mission of any healthcare institution.

The relative success of patient- and family-focused initiatives can be reflected by patient satisfaction scores and feedback, but the calculation is a subtler exercise.

The quality of culture is often reflected in how patients and families are treated, and this includes intake and discharge, as well as all of the other magic that can happen in between those two points on the patient care timeline.

5. Financial success should not trump the basics

Financial success in the healthcare sector can indeed be achieved through cost-cutting, constraint, and austerity measures, but the financial bottom line isn’t the only bottom line to consider.

While a hospital or other healthcare institution cannot function in the red over the long term, neither can it function when high-quality staff consistently leave out of frustration over a negative workplace culture, bullying, ineffective management, and other organizational failings.

The central nature of people to the success of healthcare cannot be overstated, and attention to the basics is essential. Some organizations embrace a “triple bottom line” (people, planet, and profits) or other frameworks that can serve as guiding principles that informs institutional success.

Bringing it all back home

There are myriad strategies for bringing magic to the healthcare sector, and some organizations seem to know how to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

For those that struggle with success, getting back to the basics of culture, mindful financial management, patient satisfaction, employee retention, and institutional nimbleness in the face of almost constant change are just a few strategies for moving forward.

Thoughtful leadership with a holistic managerial lens can powerfully carry an organization into the future when a focus on both the macro and the micro is employed. Financial success is essential in the 21st-century healthcare marketplace, but a focus on money alone is too shallow.

Those leaders who wade into the waters of deeper thought and action will ultimately bring their institutions into a much brighter and more successful future.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has been a nurse since 1996. He is the blogger behind the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and a widely read freelance nurse writer. Keith is also the co-host of RNFM Radio, a popular Internet radio station devoted to the nursing profession. Under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith's passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals create ultimate satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.

A healthcare facility’s magic wand

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