Archive for February, 2011

Skills for a New Economy: A Message to All Employees

February 23, 2011

(Part One of Two)

We are living and working in tough times. The healthcare industry is changing, budgets are shrinking, and a national emphasis on quality means our outcomes need to keep getting better and better.

Even organizations with a strong culture and talented employees can’t afford to relax. There is an unprecedented need for excellence at every level, every time.

What does that mean for individuals? It means every employee needs to consistently show his or her value—to bosses, to coworkers, and to patients.

Here’s the message leaders need to convey to staff members: To gain the sustainable excellence we’ll need to meet the challenges that lie ahead, we all need to take ownership of our individual roles and our organization’s mission.

So how can an employee show value and do his or her best possible work every time? Here are a few insights and suggestions to share with staff:

Hone Your Ability to Transfer Your Value across the Organization.

As the external environment gets more complex, an individual’s ability to survive and succeed is directly related to the ability to connect the dots, show insight, and communicate well with others. It’s important to show value to peers and leaders, inside and outside of your department.

Here’s how:

  • Understand the group you support. Know your audience. It’s important that we all learn to manage our time with consideration to the time of those we work with.
  • Have a nose for money and opportunity. Be efficient. Look for opportunities and be known as a problem solver inside the company.
  • Periodically attend other department meetings. It’s amazing how a different perspective changes the way we view things. Not only does this help us understand how what we do affects others, a fresh pair of problem-solving eyes in the group may help resolve the problem.
  • Offer insight. Be an active participant and share key learnings with those not in the meeting.
  • Connect what you do to revenue. While it isn’t possible to do with every job, most positions do connect to revenue directly or indirectly. Understanding this and being able to articulate it can help show value.
  • Understand the external environment and the need for a culture of always. Knowing the state of our industry, it’s important to create a culture of always that constantly implements best practices—every time, on every occasion, without exception.
  • Step outside your comfort zone. Sometimes people are too close to a challenge to see a solution. A fresh perspective—yours—can help others in the organization “connect the dots” in a new way. Being willing to boldly offer insights from an “outsider” point of view is a great way to show individual value.

Own Your Professional Development.

When we make a conscious effort to learn new things, professional development happens organically. Seek out structured professional development and training while keeping in mind that some of the most effective growth happens in day-to-day interactions.

Here’s how to make it happen:

  • Evaluate your personal brand. Do you like what you see? If not, it’s time to make adjustments. If you do, it’s time to take your personal brand to the next level. It’s important for employees to be self-aware and to get their unique talents out there.
  • Search out best practices and use them. Studer Group has spent years inside our National Learning Lab of nearly 800 healthcare organizations researching, harvesting, and refining the best ideas for maximizing human potential. Become familiar with the theories and enable them to work.
  • Take constructive criticism well. Honest feedback is a critical part of professional development. Think carefully about how to respond when feedback that is less than positive comes in.
  • Duplicate yourself. Mentor and teach whenever possible. Not only is it good for the organization (it frees you up for other things), it is incredibly rewarding.

The tips noted here focus on an individual’s personal value, brand, and development. In Skills for a New Economy, Part Two, we will focus on how each employee can take these skills to the whole company through maximizing profitability and communication.


Quint Studer

Quint Studer, CEO
Studer Group


Six Days of Suggestions to Keep the LOVE in February

February 14, 2011

I love February! Want to know why? Well, first off, it means we’ve made it through January—and thank goodness, because January is always a tough month with the end of the holidays, putting away the decorations, paying the bills, ugghh…And then of course there is the January weather! Wow, this year has been awful with the record cold temperatures and terrible winter storms. I landed in Atlanta one day and saw big piles of snow on the runways…What’s up with that? So when February 1 rolled around, I said good riddance to January; now we are in the home stretch of winter.

But that is not the only reason I love February: I also love February because as we make our way to spring, we get our shortest month…28 fast days. And to top it all off, smack dab in the middle of those 28 days is Valentine’s Day, the day devoted to love. How magnificent!

I am urging all of you to really celebrate the holiday of love this year, and to use it as the perfect catalyst to chase out any negativity that crept back in during January after the fun of the holiday season or even stuck with you during the first part of February. When I was working at Holy Cross Hospital, we celebrated Valentine’s Day for an entire week, and when you do that, you can’t help but chase away the winter blahs and the negativity that goes with it.

So here are six days’ worth of suggestions to choose from:

  1. Coworkers. Remember how fun it was to get those cute valentines in those little envelopes at school? Guess what: It still is! Can you imagine looking in your mailbox at work and finding ten tiny cards? Encourage your colleagues to pick out valentines that best suit them, like Bob the Builder from the person who’s always remodeling their home, or Snoopy from a pet lover, or Strawberry Shortcake from a petite team member.
  2. Customers. These can be patients or internal customers. For patients, you could give red pens with pink hearts on them along with the hospital’s or department’s name. You also could have something printed on the pens such as, “We love our imaging patients.” Internal departments could do something sweet for their customers: IS/IT Departments could spend time out on the units cleaning keyboards, and Marketing Departments could coordinate a poster contest for support departments to acknowledge the internal departments that they serve. The posters could be displayed and voted on in the cafeteria.
  3. Colleagues. How about those folks in other departments who make your life easier? For example, simple cards signed by everyone in your department given to the cafeteria folks who always wait that extra minute when you are running late to catch the last serving time, or to the housekeepers who know what your floor needs even before you page them are sure to be appreciated.
  4. Physicians. We know that Doctor’s Day is in March, but how about a little preview? You could do baskets of those conversation hearts or Hershey’s kisses in the physicians’ lounge or at the doctors’ entrance if you have a separate one. An amusing heart-shaped sign above each basket (I mean, you want them to know where the treats came from!) could read, “At ABC Medical Center, we love our physicians,” or, “Memorial physicians are really sweet”…Okay, maybe that’s a little too much, but you get the idea.
  5. Families and visitors. Imagine how great it would be if one day during Valentine’s week, visitors were surprised with free coffee and heart-shaped cookies. The treats don’t have to be extravagant or costly—just a cart with some decorations and perhaps a placard that reads, “We love our families and friends.”
  6. Staff. If you are a leader, now is the perfect time to let your team know how much you appreciate them. My all-time favorite, which also became a tradition, were heart-shaped pink bagels…Yep, I said pink bagels. A local bagel place did them every year, and of course they were served with strawberry cream cheese. Baskets of candy also work, as does sending flowers because they last for several days (meaning several shifts).

I promise you, with all this love and celebration going on for a week, it will chase negativity right out of the place. The next thing you know, it will be February 21…Then, poof, only one more week ’til the end of the month. And we all know what that means: March and, hallelujah, SPRING!

Liz Jazwiec is a recognized national speaker and author of Eat That Cookie!, winner of the AJN 2010 Book of the Year Award.

How Much Evidence Is Enough?

February 11, 2011

If it doesn’t directly impact clinical care, is it still worth doing? That’s the question I was recently asked while speaking to a physician group.

(Before I go any further, let me say that I welcome having my beliefs questioned. It’s one of the benefits of being able to travel all around the country and interact with so many wonderful people. I have many opportunities to learn and to become better.)

Anyway, a physician in the room stated that he did not believe the patient satisfaction survey was of much value due to the fact that it does not impact clinical outcomes. He also felt that a patient could be very satisfied, yet not receive good clinical care.

Let me address the second comment first. I agree. It is possible for patients to rate their care high in a survey and still not receive great clinical care. This is where an organization’s values come in. I don’t know of any organization that feels good if patient satisfaction is high and quality is not.

The inverse is also true. Many times an organization’s clinical quality can be excellent but other issues can lead patients to feel they did not receive excellent clinical care.

My comment the other day to a group of physicians in an academic medical center was, “Let’s have the patient’s perception of care match the clinical quality you are providing.”

Now, let’s go back to the challenge that started this blog entry: My first attempt to link the survey to the issue of clinical care was to read the questions. How well was your pain managed? How well were your needs responded to? How well were your questions answered? How well were things explained to you? How well were your home care instructions explained? I explained that I feel each of these can impact clinical care.

The physician disagreed, stating that these issues still may not change the clinical outcome. I then said, “So if a patient’s clinical outcome will not be impacted, then you don’t want your patient’s pain managed? Nor call lights answered?” The physician answered that of course he would want these steps to be taken.

That’s when it hit me. While I can connect the dots and also show more research that indicates a connection between patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes, the evidence really isn’t the point. There are times when even if actions do not impact the clinical outcome, certain behaviors and actions still need to be done.

Hospice caregivers do great work. Do their efforts change the clinical outcome? My first grandchild was stillborn. While the care and support given to my son and daughter-in-law did not change the clinical outcome, were they worthwhile? Yes, without a doubt.

Why do some people fight making some basic changes? I can’t take inventory for others, but based on years of experience, I do have some observations of my own.

For some people, it has to do with not being comfortable. If I am asked to do something that I am not comfortable doing and can come up with a reason not to do it, I have found a way to stay in my comfort zone. For others, I believe it is the fear of failure. They would rather not try at all than try and fail. I believe this is one reason best practices are hard to transfer in healthcare.

Some people may feel they are the voice for others. Have you ever noticed when someone is pushing back, he or she may often say, “Everyone,” “Most people,” or “Others,” rather than coming out and saying, “Here is how I feel.” Still others may feel they need more data before they can make a change.

It’s that last group of people, the data-seekers, who bring me back to the point. How much evidence is enough to make a change worthwhile?

I have come to this conclusion: There are times in life when we do the behavior even though there is not overwhelming research data to support it. We do it because it is the right thing to do. I can think of no reason more powerful than that one.


Quint Studer

Quint Studer, CEO
Studer Group