Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Nurses Make For Happy Patients

It was recently announced that our local hospital is going to spend $1 million to increase its patient-satisfaction scores.

This is what a consulting firm is charging for a three-year community campaign “aimed at improving the hospital’s patient satisfaction scores as reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.” According to the news story, the patient satisfaction scores at this hospital are 10 points below the state average. Good scores are important because, beginning October 2012, Medicare incentive payments to hospitals depend on several things, including patients’ opinions of their care.

Perhaps not coincidentally, employee satisfaction at this hospital scores in the 12th percentile, according to a survey.

I have no doubt that these two scores are connected and it doesn’t take a million-dollar study to figure out why.

Happy nurses/employees make for satisfied patients and families – and this doesn’t mean that nurses are more important than patients. It means that what makes nurses most happy is the ability to care for patients they way they should be cared for. And nurses can best do this when the units are sufficiently staffed; there is time to educate patients and families; and they have managers who solicit, consider and respect their ideas. Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt to provide nurses with things like quiet break rooms, herbal tea and maybe even an occasional chair massage so that they can renew body, mind and spirit before heading back out to the unit.

A million dollars could go a long way in providing a few of these things.

Whenever I read stories about patient satisfaction or lack thereof, I recall talking to nurses and managers at several Planetree hospitals. (The philosophy is named after the sycamore tree – also known as a planetree – under which Hippocrates taught medicine.)

Care at Planetree hospitals is so patient- and nurse-centered that some call these facilities “nurse nirvana.” If you work at one, you know what I’m talking about. You also know that turnover at your facility is considerably lower than most other hospitals – sometimes less than 3 percent. One director of nursing told me her hospital even has a waiting list for job openings.

“Nurses choose to work (here) because the Planetree Model lets (them) be the kind of caregivers they want to be.”

Figuring out how to increase patient satisfaction isn’t brain surgery and shouldn’t cost a million dollars. Hospitals do not have to re-invent the wheel.

I’d like to suggest that administrators take some of the millions spent on public relations, marketing and surveys, and spend it on making working conditions and policies more employee-friendly. I predict that they’ll find their patient satisfaction scores improve immensely.

The first, most important and most lasting impressions of hospitals rest on the shoulders of nurses and other bedside employees. Patients and families won’t remember the latest television ad; what they’ll remember are those who cared for them and how they did it.


sarah said...

being a nurse by profession is a calling and you should have the passion to satisfy the needs of your patient

Andrew from LPN Programs said...

That 1 million dollars can go a long way in improving working conditions for nurses. These so called "nurse nirvana" at Plantree hospitals can be replicated with ease at other facilities if only the right resources are directed to the little things that matter. The effects always trickle down to the patients.

Linda Bright said...

It is pretty simple to connect the two. Happier people, in general, give back to others on a much higher level. By giving nursing staff much needed attention, they will definitely put forth more in patient care. It's just human nature.

More hospitals and clinics should take notice of the needs of the nurses. We are such a strong part of patient care, it's really sad how often that's forgotten.