Hardwiring those powerful letters we receive

May 22, 2007

We all need those letters.

In a recent survey of leaders we asked the question, “When was the last time you shared a patient letter in your department meetings with staff?” It turns out 60 percent of leaders had not done so in the past 6 months. Why? We can come up with a variety of reasons, but I find the two most often given are, “I don’t get copies of patient/family letters” and “I did not know I was supposed to, or could.”

Let’s hit the first reason. In our work we find almost all health care workers, whether they provide direct patient care, support services or any number of roles, went into and stay in health care for the same reason – they like what it represents. What is that? Their organization makes a difference in people’s lives. Employees love to hear about the impact their organization is having, the lives saved, and the end-of-life care that, while not saving a life, made such a positive impact. There are differences made in so many ways. We work in organizations surrounded by miracles.

Positive letters are printed in newsletters (after taking legal steps to protect writers or obtaining permission to use), which is good, but we can do more. Take time to send letters to all leaders. Even staff that don’t provide direct patient care enjoy the letters and feel good about the impact their organization makes. It also provides leaders the chance to connect staff back to the difference they make through their roles. When rounding on staff, have leaders show the letters and read them to staff. Ask leaders to read the letters at their own department meetings, too.

This hits point two. Most administrators read positive letters at department head meetings. But are we sure those leaders bring the letters and messages back to their staff? Most employee forums (town hall meetings) include letters from patients/family members thanking the organization, specific people and departments. This does not ensure that all staff hear these great letters for only those that attend the meeting receive the message.

I encourage organizations to hardwire the practice of leaders taking positive messages/letters back to their units from department meetings and employee forums as well as reading them out of the newsletter.

It’s easy to tell when the staff feels good about where they work. You see staff wearing the hats, shirts and buttons with your organization’s logo on them when you’re around the community. Heck, they even keep their name badge on when stopping at the grocery store on the way home.

This past year we have collected many stories about the difference makers in health care. These are now in a book, which contains a health care story for every day of the year. We will be providing this book complimentary to all people at the June 11-13, What’s RIGHT In Health Care conference. As I read the stories it reinforced how fortunate I am to be on this journey with you. Thank you.

Quint

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5 Responses to “Hardwiring those powerful letters we receive”

  1. Donna Bopp Says:

    I receive surveys from patients/families almost everyday. The survey data is collated and sent to all employees to view. When an employee or physician is named, I attach a small pin (ROC STAR) and individually congratulate the person in front of whome ever is around. The employee or physician gets a copy of the positive comment to save in their file and send a scanned copy to the Administrator of our facility and to our Director. Everyone seems to love the feedback.

    I also post and review our satisfaction data comments with staff.


  2. We started about 6 months ago reading thank you notes consistently. We did it previously, but not all the time at all meetings. We are a Hospice with a large bereavement program that reaches into the community and daily serves about 1,000 people. In addition, we have the families served through our patient & family program. The notes are shared at monthly staff meetings and also at our weekly Team Meetings. The results have been incredible. Everyone looks forward to hearing the comments. If there is a suggestion that is also shared with the team and discussed for opportunities to improve.
    If there should be a concern regarding a particular person that is always followed up one on one.Never discussed in the group.
    Morale has improved dramatically. The goal of communicating positive feedback publically has created an environment of people striving to be top performers. It works!

  3. 'Doc' Campbell Says:

    We post, on a large bulletin board, retyped letters of appreciation from the people we served, along with our patient satisfaction comments (positive & negative). The letters are laminated on nice stationary and go into a notebook. We also post them on the unit for newer patients to read too. Some very powerful comments and poetry have come from the people we serve.


  4. “The entire aquatic staff are caring, energetic, professionals yet ever so wonderful to be with. They are as much a part of my life as my family. I could not imagine how it would be without their gifts of presence to me. Thank you. You have changed my life for one of richness.” Jean

    Jean is one of our new aquatic clients at the Medical Center of Plano


  5. We post every thank you card and letter received in the ED on a “Customer Service Central” bulletin board, next to our Press Ganey results! I also always send a copy to my senior manager. We just initiated a program when a thank you letter specifically identifies an individual, we provide that staff member with one of our logo pins we selected for our customer service program in the ED! The first couple have been received very positive!


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