The Emergency Department (ED) at the University of Rochester Medical Center/Strong Memorial Hospital is a 140-bed facility with several areas of specialization, including being recognized as the regional trauma and burn care center and featuring a pediatric ED. The department, with approximately 300 staff members, cares for more than 100,000 patients per year.
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In 2011, morale was down and turnover was high within the Emergency Department, leading Dr. Michael Kamali, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine to seek out help in changing the culture. After considering multiple consultants that specialized in hospitals, Dr. Kamali decided he wanted to work with an organization that could leverage cross-industry best practices and take a business approach to changing the culture.
That is when Dr. Kamali decided to partner with Reward Gateway. Prior to making recommendations, Reward Gateway conducted a preliminary survey within the department to better understand the culture. Results proved Dr. Kamali’s belief: a battlefield mentality and a dangerously negative workplace environment.
Dr. Kamali shares how stressful working in this environment can be: “Emergency department staff face unique challenges. They experience high volumes of work and have to make quick decisions under pressure which carry a significant burden of responsibility.”
The Reward Gateway team worked with a multidisciplinary group from the Emergency Department to uncover the unique factors responsible for the negative work environment. Rather than pointing to a disengaged staff, the process revealed just the opposite: ED staff members were so solely focused on serving patients in an “under the gun” environment, they were neglecting to support each other or their partners within the hospital system. This was reflected in the department’s low employee satisfaction scores, high nursing turnover and reputation throughout the URMC hospital system as being “difficult.”
The team set about changing the cultural mindset and creating a better work environment while maintaining an excellent patient experience.
The first step involved examining the specific behaviors they wanted employees to do every day at work.
And it all stemmed from one question: “What are the things everyone should do every day?” The answers were simple, but powerful. For example, they wanted ED employees to make a greater effort to offer to help coworkers, not just patients. They wanted employees to actively appreciate and recognize the behaviors of their colleagues.
Our team helped the Emergency Department staff bring the newly defined behaviors to life via their employee engagement platform, dubbed Strong Stars.
The Strong Stars platform includes strategic recognition – a tool for employees to post and socialize stories of how their coworkers have demonstrated the behaviors most valued by the organization. Posts are seen by everyone within the entire hospital system, raising visibility and reinforcing the impact of the good work being done in the Emergency Department.
The ED staff began to capture and share stories of teamwork and compassion shown to one another, as well as their patients.
Enthusiasm grew, and the new behaviors and habit of recognizing coworkers began to take hold. In fact, the number of employee recognitions has increased each year since 2011. As of July 2018, over 1,000 stories and best practices were captured and shared for ED staff and faculty who delivered a great experience to patients or their colleagues.
Today, giving and receiving recognition is an established practice that has yielded great dividends for the Emergency Department, including a decrease in nursing turnover.
Dr. Kamali admits he was skeptical at first, but has seen over time that his concerns were unfounded. The staff is happier all around, which helps attract like-minded people into the system. It’s good for the patients – and for Dr. Kamali, that’s what matters most
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recognition since launch
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