To boost nurse satisfaction and patient experience in so doing, Vidant Health has implemented three strategies that have "reshaped the nurse work environment to achieve organizational excellence," Jennifer Thew writes for HealthLeaders Media.
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Linda Hofler, SVP and nurse executive at Vidant Medical Center, became interested in taking a so-called "holistic approach" to excellence after Julie Kennedy Oehlert, Vidant's chief experience officer and an RN, started doing research on the health care environment.
Oehlert's idea, according to Hofler, was "if you just focus on the patient experience … you [don't] really get the engagement of your team members."
To test this, Hofler and Oehlert, alongside Vidant's chief quality officer, looked at correlations between employee engagement, complaints, grievances, patient experience, employee turnover, and a variety of nurse-sensitive quality indicators, Thew writes.
"Sure enough, there are patterns and trends that would lead you to believe—at least our theory is—that if you can improve the team member experience, then the other things will get better too," Hofler said.
Based on these observations, Hofler began working to implement a "holistic approach to organizational excellence" to benefit nurses and, ultimately, patients. The goal of the initiative, Hofler said, is "to improve team member experience and rebuild joy in the workplace. [It's not just] focused on patient experience but on team member, provider, and environmental experience as well."
For two years, Vidant has been using three strategies toward that end.
1. Implementing nursing salons
One effort Vidant launched is called "nursing salons." Historically, salons were places where people could share ideas through conversation and increase their knowledge, Thew writes.
In Vidant's nursing salons, up to 30 participants, alongside a facilitator, discuss a specific topic with a focus on dialogue and learning. These meetings last about an hour, Hofler said.
"During that hour, not only are you learning content, but you're learning from the experiences of the other people in the room, so it becomes very rich," she said. "It's kind of a recommitment to why you came into a health care profession. For nursing, that resonates with folks because it's so easy in the business to forget why you really wanted to do the work to begin with."
2. Using games to foster nurses' skills
Another way Vidant has sought to engage nurses is by using games to help nurses practice their problem-solving skills, Thew writes.
For example, Hofler said, "We did a game with all of my leadership team and their direct reporting lines where they had an hour to devise a plan for how they were going to do something to focus on engagement [with] their teams. They were going to get $100, so [the question was], 'How would they use that [money to engage with their employees]?'"
One group used a circus theme, and created a cart that resembled a circus tent. Everyone dressed like circus performers and provided circus-like snacks to employees in the unit, Thew writes. According to Hofler, they then used that opportunity to talk with nurses "about what was the most important thing that leadership should be doing to support patient care at the front line."
Hofler said the games lead to "a change in our [employee] engagement scores. It was a small incremental change, but that's what you want … small changes over time that are sustainable."
3. Creating an environment that encourages breaks
Encouraging nurses to take breaks is also an important part of Vidant's initiative, Thew writes. When Hofler visited the breakroom at Vidant Medical's ED, she asked the nurses, "'Where do you go get yourself centered again?'" The nurses replied, "'We don't do that.'"
So, Hofler created a visually appealing breakroom space with refrigerators, a microwave, and a serenity room painted with inspirational quotes, Thew writes. "Now [nurses] will go in there and talk to each other," Hofler said (Thew, HealthLeaders Media, 6/10).
National Nurses Week, our annual traditional time to recognize and celebrate nurses, just passed. But don't just recognize your nurses during Nurses Week—show your staff how much you value their professional work and appreciate their daily contributions regularly and often.
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