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Show Them More Than $

Molly Rowe, for HealthLeaders Magazine, September 10, 2008
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Healthcare hiring has never been more competitive. Organizations need to increasingly find new and unusual ways to attract staff and keep them there. But how?

Positioning a healthcare organization for future success means more than a fancy new building and innovative technology—it means people. With qualified staff dwindling even as patient numbers grow, organizations that want to thrive in the next several years must reinvent themselves into places where people genuinely want to work.

But what makes an organization an attractive employer? High salaries? Tuition reimbursement? Relocation assistance? Increasingly, experts say it's more than that—things that can't necessarily be defined with numbers or dollar signs.

Healthcare workers at all levels want to be empowered to make decisions. They want to be a part of the business. They want to think. That's why some healthcare organizations are spending less time putting together short-term employment pacifiers like sign-on bonuses and more time implementing long-term programs that stimulate employees and keep them loyal for years to come.

Collaborative care
ThedaCare, a four-hospital system in Wisconsin, has a unit based entirely on empowering staff to better care for patients. Opened last year at Appleton Medical Center, the new 14-bed unit will serve as the model for the future of all ThedaCare acute-care units, says Maribeth Hetherington, Appleton's chief nursing officer. The new unit is based on a patient care model called "collaborative care," in which nurses, physicians, and pharmacists work side-by-side to care for the patient. In a traditional patient unit, when a patient checks in, a nurse does a nursing assessment, a physician does a physician assessment, and the pharmacist awaits direction. This redundancy often causes increased work, staff confusion, and patient frustration.

At Appleton, the nurse, physician, and pharmacist do the initial assessment together. The nurse serves as care manager, overseeing a patient's care plan with direct and frequent input from doctors and pharmacists. This new nursing role requires more decision-making, coordination of care, and patient education than the typical nursing model.

Before the new unit opened, front-line clinicians worked with architects, contractors, and hospital leaders to create the new unit's design and processes. Close to 20 nurses went off-site for six weeks of training to learn about the new role of care manager.

"We really taught nurses all about the management of care, enhanced patient safety, how we get reimbursed, and the business side of the work that they do," Hetherington explains.

Although good patient care provides the basis for the collaborative care model, Hetherington says, the ability to attract quality employees was a driving force behind the redesign. "The vision for the model is that we wanted to be the in-patient destination of choice for patients and for staff," Hetherington says.

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