Employees Before Patients: Heresy? Or Management Gold?

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , November 9, 2012

I couldn't think of a better headline than borrowing from the provocative title of a new book, Patients Come Second by Paul Spiegelman, CEO of the Beryl Companies and Texas Health Presbyterian President Britt Berrett. The reason: We all know that in a new era of supposed accountability for hospitals and healthcare systems, the patient is supposed to be the first priority.

That should have been the case despite whatever financial methodology is being used, but, perverse incentives being what they are, maintaining volumes became more important than maintaining patients' health.

That's one reason the title, as healthcare embarks slowly, haltingly, into a new era, is so shocking.

But the two authors are being strategically provocative, to shed light on the fact that healthcare culture is often dysfunctional enough that in itself, it harms patient care. And that bothers them. Because culture is underappreciated in healthcare, they argue. Both Spiegelman and Berrett lead organizations considered by employees to be top places to work by a variety of measures.

"The irony is that the internal culture of hospitals is not very strong, especially since people have generally come to work there with a heart for service," says Spiegelman. "We have to understand that it's dominated by leaders who weren't really brought up in their silo of leadership school to know how to build a team, or play nice, or empower people to do their job."

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2 comments on "Employees Before Patients: Heresy? Or Management Gold?"

Deb (11/16/2012 at 4:27 PM)
Human beings can't give what they don't have. This is very simply why patient experience must start with employee's well-being – on all levels. In a 2010 research study, when asked what supports and creates a healing experience for staff, medical professionals in a range of positions all said "caring for self." Upon further inquiry, this wasn't simply eat right, exercise and (even with hospital shift hours) sleep. Self-caring includes interactions with others, clinical and business processes and even the business model that actually support well-being. Research revealed qualities or attributes of what this. Equipped with such qualities, every person, whether the engineer keeping the temperature just right, or the night nurse, or the CFO, can make decisions moment-to-moment, adjust behaviors, processes, and emotional qualities to embody self-caring. For example, one attribute is connection. Respondents said this includes peer to peer connection; staff and patient connection; and spiritual connection. In what ways does your organization embody each of those for each staff person to have that as their daily experience? Research Study Executive Summary: http://experienceinmotion.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Executive-Summary-5-Dimensions-of-Self-Caring.pdf Research report available: http://experienceinmotion.net/staff-experience/

Mary K Parker (11/10/2012 at 7:47 PM)
The workers in the trenches often have better ideas about how to get the organization where it needs to be. The senior leadership has a better idea of the regulatory pressures the organization faces. Unfortunately, there's usually a huge chasm between the trenches and the towers, and very little communication happens in either direction. This book title is true. If the senior leadership looks after its workers and removes the obstacles and barriers to getting the job done, miracles can happen.




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