Bringing Your Mission to Life

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, July 9, 2008

Having a communication strategy is not new to the healthcare industry. Many hospitals have trained their clinicians to use techniques like SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) when they are transferring or handing off patients to another clinician to ensure that vital patient information is forwarded to the next caregiver. Hospital executives understand that this type of formal communication is an essential step to providing the highest quality and safest care to their patients. Likewise, senior leaders understand that good communication is an essential component to the success of their organization. But how well do you really communicate your hospital's goals? Do your employees know the hospital's mission, or perhaps most importantly, do they know what their role is in achieving that mission?

Senior executives in community hospitals may mistakenly believe that because their hospital has a smaller staff or because they are located in a small town where everybody seems to know what everyone else is doing that an informal communication strategy is sufficient. But you don't want your employees thinking that they're always the last to hear about the organization's strategy, or worse yet, to hear about organizational announcements from someone else in the community.

Many hospitals have a monthly newsletter or quarterly meetings, but are these methods the best way to reach and engage your staff? Earlier this year, I heard Brian Shockney, the chief executive officer of Logansport (IN) Memorial Hospital, discuss the importance of "lavish communication" to align every hospital employee around the goals of the organization. He also discussed that it was the CEO's responsibility to communicate that message. At Memorial, Shockney holds roundtables with hospital employees once a month that consist of a 10-minute presentation followed by a 50-minute question-and-answer session. He also meets with senior executives once a week, managers once a month, and attends all of the hospital's department meetings at least once a year. In addition, Memorial has a policy against using healthcare jargon during its board meetings and its senior leaders use the employee parking lots.

While you may use different communication techniques in your organization, every hospital should be educating its employees on their role in helping the organization meet its goals. In addition, hospitals should encourage employees to voice their concerns or offer feedback. After all, the top priority on just about every hospital mission statement is providing high quality and safe care to patients. So would your security team or housekeeping staff offer assistance or get help if they saw a patient fall to the floor in the emergency room? Or would they just continue to do "their" job.

Carrie Vaughan is editor of HealthLeaders Media Community and Rural Hospital Weekly. She can be reached at
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