Putting patients first
Memorial Healthcare frees workers to break the rules to help improve patient experience
For some hospital CEOs, one of the most difficult parts of the job might be understanding what employees need to be satisfied in their work. Memorial Healthcare System CEO Frank Sacco knows firsthand what the daily grind is like in, say, housekeeping or security, though. He used to work there. Sacco started at Memorial Regional Hospital as director of housekeeping in 1974 and worked his way up to the top job at the system of six hospitals near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But Sacco doesn’t rely on his decades-old experience in the trenches. He and other top managers meet with as many employees as possible to make sure all tiers of management know what everyone’s challenges are.
Memorial is No. 2 in the large providers category in the Best Places to Work for 2015. It’s No. 7 among all providers and No. 15 overall.
For years, Sacco has joined top administrators in “making rounds,” checking in with staff, asking, ‘What do we need to do to help you?’ ” said Sacco, who is set to retire in February. “We’re all in this together—it’s not us versus them.”
Sacco said he’s learned in those talks that employees’ ultimate satisfaction stems from treating patients well. Empowering them to do that gives workers a sense of accomplishment that beats other perks. “That’s why people get into healthcare, to focus on the patient, to be a caregiver,” Sacco said.
The treatment that patients and their families receive even draws people to seek work at Memorial Healthcare hospitals, said Margie Vargas, vice president of human resources.
“They’ll say, ‘I joined the organization because of the care I received as a patient or the care that was given to a loved one,’ ” Vargas said.
The hospital system uses a patient-centered focus when hiring. “We don’t just look for the skill set, we look for motivation, we look for integrity,” Vargas said. And after applicants are hired, the system has to empower them to provide that care, Sacco said.
Sacco meets with employees during orientation and tells them stories to impress on them that, no matter what their position might be, they’re responsible for high-quality patient care—and if they put that goal first, management will have their back.
He tells them the story of the food delivery worker who sensed a change in a patient’s demeanor and insisted a nurse check on him. “He was in congestive heart failure, and that dietary hostess may have saved that person’s life that day,” Sacco said.
He also tells the story about the nurse’s aide who was flagged down by a patient’s son asking for help, and bypassed a triage nurse to do an EKG on the patient, alerting a doctor the patient was having a heart attack.
“I tell that story and people say, ‘If I did that where I worked before, I would have lost my job,’ ” Sacco said. “But you can break the rules if you’re putting the patient first.”
Hundreds of Memorial Healthcare System personnel participated in the Invicta Tour de Broward in February to raise money for the system’s Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. The event raised $400,000 in 2015.