Communication with employees key at the Women’s Hospital
An obstetrical, nursery and postpartum nurse for nearly 30 years, Leann Fuelling has analyzed what sets her current employer—the Women’s Hospital in Newburgh, Ind.—apart from previous employers. “The CEO’s door is open and you can walk in any time and feel comfortable telling her your concerns or issues,” she said. “So I have always felt backed in my practice. I know that as long as I do my best job possible, the leaders here will back me up in the care of my patients.”
The Women’s Hospital ranks No. 2 on Modern Healthcare’s list of the medium-size provider organizations on Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare for 2014, those with 250 to 999 employees, and is No. 5 overall among the 100 employers on the ranking. This is the fifth year the hospital has earned a place on the list.
No. 1 on this year’s ranking for mid-sized providers is Lovelace Women’s Hospital, Albuquerque, which has made the annual Best Places rankings six times. The hospital was profiled last year. Visit modernhealthcare.com/bestplaces for profiles of the hospital and other previous winners.
Fuelling’s comment suggests that CEO Christina Ryan’s strategy is working. Since the hospital opened in 2001, she and the senior leadership team have worked to make employee communication a top priority.
“We have tried to educate staff that if there is a problem, it needs to be addressed right now, and I think they are used to that mentality,” Ryan said. “We don’t wait until something gets to be a bigger problem because someone thinks, ‘Oh, that’s management’s job.’ No, it is all of our jobs.”
The “all in this together” culture was first obvious to Fuelling when she interviewed for a position before the hospital opened. She was interviewed not only by nursing managers, but also by the physicians with whom she would be working. To her, that helped create a culture of a community of caregivers in which the CEO and physicians, nurses, nursing techs and all others see themselves as part of team responsible for patient care.
Although the hospital occasionally surveys staff members to get input on specific topics, the Women’s Hospital executive team primarily relies on the “Best Places” survey results to monitor what employees are thinking and feeling. Each year, the hospital’s human resources director analyzes survey results and distributes findings to the management team.
“We look at scores in various areas and we try to develop an action plan in (any area that needs improvement) and work on that in the next year,” Ryan said.
Comments made in response to open-ended questions in the survey are particularly valuable.
“Sometimes it is even more important than the numbers because we are really getting to the root of what people are thinking,” Ryan said.
The emphasis on communication extends both ways.
Ryan wants all employees to feel a responsibility to speak up and share information that will improve hospital performance, but she also thinks leaders must be proactive in communicating with the staff.
“We really feel that, by educating them about the challenges in healthcare that we are facing, our employees can understand the ‘why’ behind what we are doing,” she said.
For example, rather than telling staff members that the hospital must cut costs because reimbursements are declining, hospital leaders communicate how the organization’s strategic plan supports population health management and the need for accountability. That helps employees understand they must find ways to improve quality while reducing costs.
Information is communicated in unit meetings but also in town hall meetings where staff members hear directly from Ryan. Fuelling says the open communication with Ryan gives staff members a feeling of ownership that makes them want to work harder.
“Everybody takes so much pride in their job here, and we want her to be proud of us,” she said. “We want to carry out her work—little things like finding ways to save money and not being wasteful. Just because I’m a nurse doesn’t mean I can’t empty the trash in a patient’s room. People here just jump in and do what needs to be done.”
CEO Christina Ryan was also “chief astronaut” for the launch of the Baby Friendly USA initiative at the Women’s Hospital.
The Women’s Hospital’s nursing education department hosted a Stayin’ Alive Emergency Department Fair that included ’70s themed costumes.