A Fresh Look at Standards of Behavior

October 9, 2007

Is it time to review your organization’s standards of behavior? 

Standards of behavior are developed with the goal that, if followed, several critical results will follow: 

  • Patients will perceive excellent care
  • Staff will feel positive about organization
  • Physicians will find the practice of medicine efficient and effective

Given the importance of having standards that directly support your organizational goals, is it time to take your standards to the next level?  To update them?  In organizations across the nation we are beginning to see the next generation of standards of behavior.  

At Delray Medical Center in Florida, some of the units have reviewed the organization’s standards and made commitments on how to implement them within their unit. For example, their Med/Tele unit has such commitments as, “I will take responsibility for hourly rounds to assess my patients’ needs” and “I will round with the attending physician when requested.” 

Standards are put in place so staff can have input into the type of work environment in which they work best. Thereby, expectations are clear.   There is consistency in performance so patients receive better care, and departments and staff work well together. 

When standards are used well, patients, their families, physicians and the staff benefit. When written but not followed, the standards become one of those ideas that made sense, took time and effort to write, had promise, but are sitting in the program/buzzword graveyard. 

If your organization is not achieving your goals in these areas, it is a strong possibility that the standards are not being followed by some within your organization. To see if this is the case, have Human Resources audit the departments that are not achieving positive staff, patient and physician satisfaction. 

Oftentimes these audits will find that the standards are not being addressed.  Staff is either not being written up for not following standards, or not being recognized for following them.  There is usually little proof that the standards are being emphasized by the leader at all, which means that there could be a leadership problem in a low performing department. 

What is permitted is promoted. You may have a leader who needs more mentoring, coaching or, in some cases, removal. 

In summary, we all get off track. This may be a great time to assess how well your organization is using the standards of behavior. The insight you gain may help you take your standards to the next level.

If you are using standards well, please let me know. There are always organizations looking for better or best practices.  If you have a success story, please share.  If you need advice or have a question, please ask. 

Thank you for your commitment to making health care even better.


P.S. I know that many readers of this blog are concerned about whether their organization is ready for the increased transparency of information that will be available to the public through the HCAHPS survey. We recently taped a webinar on this topic that shows how to use specific, field tested tools to increase patients’ perception of care in your organization and how to impact HCAHPS with evidence based practices.  You can learn more here HCAHPS Update 2007 Webinar.

Please add your comments to this blog and share your thoughts with our readers. We can all benefit from each other’s experiences.


One Response to “A Fresh Look at Standards of Behavior”

  1. Jay Tatum Says:

    One of the often overlooked resources in many health care systems is the Chaplain, particularly Professionally Board Certified Chaplains, such as myself. When it comes to Standards of Behavior, Board Certified Chaplains are generally beyond reproach of any kind and yet the leadership and management of health care systems recognizes our work as holding hands and praying, doing service recovery, and just generally being goodwill ambassadors for the health care system. In my most recent experience in a small health care system in rural Ohio, my well-educated, highly-developed people skills were characterized as “soft.” In reality, making disciples through the use of a non-anxious presence and a consistent standard of behavior with clearly defined goals and objectives is what clergy do best. Yet as a resource to the health care system, these “soft skills” were never exploited or integrated into the larger vision and mission.
    Across the country at regular conferences among clergy the lament is the same – we are an untapped resource for an infinite variety of customer service, human resource, and mission-integration issues. I, for one, take exception to the perception that my well-educated and highly-developed skills are “soft.” They do no generate revenue in the traditional sense of “service” but most of us are real experts in conflict management and resolution, customer service, human resources, and mission-integration that create an environment of care that brings customers back to our health care systems over and over because we listen to the patients, their families, and the staff at a level most executives can’t, don’t, and won’t tolerate.
    If I could add anything to the discussion of standards of behavior I would submit to you that poorly-defined leadership at the top of most health care systems is a more consistent theme than any other single issue. And it is a spiritual issue at the core meaning that the value and meaning of the post is in conflict with who the leader is or is not. Those leaders who emerge in this industry with a deeper sense of who they are have grown into that sense of being shaped largely by their attitudes, values, and assumptions. Most are in touch with their own spirituality. It is here that the role of the Chaplain can serve the greater, larger needs of the health care system by helping to mentor a leader or a group of leaders by making disciples of a (health care) belief system.
    If the leaders of any system want to see a greater ROI, they are going to have to invest in their own sense of who they are, what they are about, and in what direction they want others to follow. In looking at Standards of Behavior, someone has to establish the standards and be willing to raise them. Well-defined leaders do this.

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