How intentional team recognition strengthens patient care
As much as mission-driven caregivers strive to deliver seamless healthcare each day, burnout and compassion fatigue can easily derail their best efforts. So, what can healthcare organizations do to address talent retention and inspire resilience?
Amy Feeder, customer-experience program manager at M Health Fairview, and Jon Tanner, program director of Human Understanding at NRC Health, discussed effective approaches to implementing a team-recognition strategy during June’s Becker’s Hospital Review podcast.
Together, they’ve seen better quality and safety outcomes happen at the bedside when caregivers are feeling engaged, less stressed, and supported, but admit that keeping teams engaged can be a challenge.
“Being able to share patient stories and recognize everyone who’s part of an experience can go a long way to spark resilience,” says Feeder. “You see outcomes just far surpass what you expect throughout all the different performance dimensions.”
Tanner agrees, noting that when healthcare was more relationship-based and providers were seeing the same patients repeatedly, they would often get that intrinsic reward on the next visit or down the line, knowing that things were getting better and being able to tweak things when they needed to. Now, patients are going to a lot of retail-based care, urgent-care, and emergency-care facilities, where regular providers are not getting to see them repeatedly.
“Taking recognition through patient feedback and sharing that along to the front line is part of closing that loop and helping them get a lot of that intrinsic reward, in terms of why they’ve gone into healthcare in the first place,” he says.
M Health Fairview, a healthcare organization based in Minnesota, follows a tiered management strategy in which the first prompt of every daily huddle is to share “shoutouts,” or recognitions.
“Sharing patient stories, taking the time to reflect on that patient’s experience, and acknowledging the staff who played a role helps each staff member connect back to purpose,” Feeder says. “We get hundreds of patient comments every single day on our surveys. And the concern is, those comments may not be trickling down to the people who are providing the care. We’re doing our absolute best to bring those comments back to the front lines, especially when a care-team member is called out.”
Healthcare organizations like M Health Fairview have found NRC Health’s Compliment Sharing to be a useful capability to send real-time patient feedback directly to the care team members. Compliment Sharing makes it easy to show patient appreciation by automatically identifying positive feedback and empowering organizations to build positive workforce engagement.
Tanner notes that one of the two best practices NRC Health sees among partners is a drive toward patient-to-care-team recognition, which can also help boost peer-to-peer recognition, helping drive staff retention and morale.
“Organizations should consider adding questions to their patient-feedback instruments that are centered on gathering recognition, like, ‘Is there anyone you would like to recognize?’” he says.
The other is the powerful practice of democratizing feedback and decentralizing comments.
“Leaders can only pull out so many compliments and forward them to so many people,” he says. “And healthcare organizations are so large that it’s hard to know who a ‘David’ is—but their peers do, and their frontline does. The more creative organizations are, the more likely they are to be able to see it latch on and get buy-in throughout the organization.”
Asking the Right Question
Tanner says NRC Health finds that 76% of patient comments are positive—a rich source of feedback. Now, Compliment Sharing can automatically identify those comments that take the form of compliments and make it easy to share them out broadly.
Feeder says when M Health Fairview added the question, “Is there anyone you would like to recognize?” they were apprehensive about whether patients would remember names of job titles, but they have since received a phenomenal response.
“It’s amazing to see what patients remember and want to share, and being able to share that with the care team makes a huge impact,” she says.
M Health Fairview has a children’s patient family advisory council that recently started giving an impact award to recognize staff throughout the system for their exceptional work. The recipient of their latest award was a member of their nutrition team who learned that they lacked gluten-free options in areas like emergency-department waiting rooms or inpatient units, for patients or families who needed to grab a quick snack.
Feeder says that implementing changes like this has inspired leaders and teams to ask how they can be better, because they are being recognized for their great work.
Increasing PX Stickiness
Tanner says that many NRC Health partners have a challenge getting their care team to engage in patient experience, feedback, and data, because teams can feel that patient-feedback comments only bring bad news—as though they’re grades and benchmarks providers aren’t reaching. Eventually, he says, care teams’ brains become shut off to feedback for this reason.
“When organizations can show that patient feedback is really about understanding what matters to patients and helping build relationships, that starts with realizing what patients already think you do great and re-instilling those behaviors you’re already amazing at,” he says.
Tanner adds that NRC Health has brought a much higher probability of getting teams to engage in the whole spectrum of feedback, including areas in which they need to improve. If organizations don’t get that recognition strategy in place showing that patient-experience feedback can be used broadly beyond just scores, he says, they risk everyone disengaging from that feedback.
“The vast majority of care-team members in the world are extremely mission-driven individuals,” he says. “They’ve picked an insanely difficult career dedicated to serving others, and they’re doing their best in a system that’s not always built to serve them. I think recognition’s an amazing way to try and put some smiles on the faces of people who could use it right now.”