Imagine a hospital or system CEO sending out a memo saying that Monday we will be changing the culture. At 8:00 AM everyone will become service-minded and patient-centered. By 8:20 AM we will be creating an ideal patient experience. How effective would that be? You may have snickered at this but let me tell you, we’ve been asked to perform miraculous feats like this by very smart healthcare leaders.
About two years ago, my firm was brought in to help improve the patient experience in a large system. We had been working with their hospitals on leadership development, coaching and staff training. We were seeing positive trending on the patient satisfaction scores as well as employee engagement. At the same time, we were hearing more and more stories of great patient experiences. Things were moving in the right direction.
Part of the shift was the organization’s commitment to training. All hospital employees attended 2-4 hours of interactive, experiential training that helped align each person with the mission, vision and values while reinforcing standards and connection to purpose. The Power of One class and the Nurse/Patient Partnership workshop were presented to every person on staff.
When it was time to begin working with the medical practices on training we hit a barrier. The system had been acquiring medical practices and building several others. There was no brand consistency from one site to another. Each practice was operating as if they were still an independent entity making the training even more essential. Not only were we to teach the essential skills, but part of the strategy was to make the free-standing practices feel more a part of the system. We were up for the challenge. But then the VP over ambulatory services told us we could only have 20 minutes for staff training. At first I was certain he meant that we should break the curriculum into 20-minute units, which isn’t ideal but it could be done. Nope. He honestly wanted us to do everything in 20 minutes. I wanted to ask if his employees were all equipped with a USB port in the sides of their heads where we could do a quick download. That was essentially what he was asking for.
Culture wasn’t created in 20 minutes, nor can it be changed in 20 minutes. And training is an important part of the shift along with coaching and daily reinforcement of standards, mission, vision and values. Leaders who want a consistently positive patient experience must commit to training. If they don’t they shouldn’t expect real change.