Hospice is a service. Seems simple, right? Instruct your staff to say and do the right things, and everything is going to be just great! Well . . . not so much. If you have been viewing your staff as a part of hospice that is needed to deliver the service, you've got it all wrong. They are ALL of hospice. Let's examine.
In a product-related industry, we look at several things to determine whether we are happy with the end result. With a product, we look at the materials that it is made of, we look at the way it was designed and constructed, we look at the way that it functions to meet our need. Let's use a set of sheets/bed linens for an example. We feel the material to determine the quality of the materials and how soft the sheets are, we examine the seams to see how well it was sewn, and we take note of how well it washes after several launderings to determine how "good" the product is. We notice how warm, cool, or comfortable we are when we sleep each night. After considering the above, we determine whether we are happy with the product. In product-related industries, the satisfaction is determined mainly on the quality of the materials chosen to create the product. In a service related industry, your raw materials are your professionals in the field.
Let me help this sink in a bit. Several times a day, every day, they wear your agency name on their clothing or badges and step into homes and facilities representing you. They are the lens through which everyone they meet - from the Wendy's drive thru to the patients, families, physicians, and facilities they interface with - and they are your most precious asset. One's first thought may be - eek - maybe I should go make sure that everyone is in compliance with dress code and review that professional boundaries training once again. If that makes you feel better, by all means do. But I want to take this one step further before you step into motion. I want you to start viewing them as your most important raw materials.
In healthcare, we are often in need of staff - and fast. As managers, we are aware that when we aren't fully staffed, that places a burden on the existing staff, and we don't want to exhaust a crew of professionals that is already tired. However, there are a few questions to consider before we rush into the same cycle of bringing on your next valuable asset:
- What sort of investment do you place in your staff from the time that you hire them?
- When you hire, do you ask questions to see if the candidate will be a good fit, or are you rushing into the hire to relieve the workload?
- Do you take the time to provide her with a thorough training and orientation?
- Do you provide enough time being trained in the field until she feels comfortable on her own?
- Does she have someone to call when she has questions, so that she feels supported?
- As an employee makes her way through training and has been a member of the team for a while, what employee recognition do you provide for her?
- Do you incorporate humor into your work day?
- Is there time to eat together to establish relationships and build rapport with one another?
- When your team is out in the field all day, it is difficult for those in the office to know about all of the good interactions and work that is being done out there. Do you have a way for staff to bring in their stories and share about the good work that they witness in each other?
- What about your managers? Do you evaluate your managers on how well they motivate their team, and how supportive they are to those in the field?
Different solutions work for different teams, but the moral of the story here is this: don't ever lose sight of the fact that the happier your team is, the better their care will be. Create clear, consistent expectations for everyone in the office, and do it with compassion. Some people won't like it, but most will understand it. Choose your professionals with care. Your raw materials will be strong and serve your mission well for years to come. Your investment should always be in them. “Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last.” – Ian Hutchinson, author of People Glue