"We've been really focused on developing a culture that lends itself to creating an excellent experience for patients," she says. "We also want it to be an excellent environment for our employees to work in every day and for our physicians to practice in."
In 2011, St. John's formed its Service Excellence Steering Committee and began doing daily leadership rounds where each clinical leadership member is assigned to visit specific patient rooms and report findings during daily leadership huddles. Rounding takes place between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. every day, and no other meetings are allowed to be scheduled during that time.
"Bringing together the steering committee was the first step," Harting says. "We took specific steps to develop a culture where people knew they had the freedom to speak up, where they had the power to change things, and where leadership would listen."
Daily rounding leads to quick action to improve the patient experience and demonstrates to staff the level of importance St. John's leadership is placing on clinical quality, Harting says.
"After rounding, the team shares its findings and solves problems in real time. Then we go back to staff with immediate feedback on what is going to change. Employees are engaged because they know they can make a difference in the patient experience," she says. "Leadership has to model what we are emphasizing to the staff. I'm a nurse by background, and I know that anyone who goes through the educational requirements to become a clinical provider does so because they want to make a difference in patients' lives. We have to make sure we have the systems in place to support that."
Cathy Frontczak, St. John's chief nursing officer and vice president of patient services, says the leadership team also rounds on staff.
"When we started leadership rounds, we really primarily focused on the patient. One day, a nurse in the ICU asked me why I walked right past her every day and went directly to talk to the patient. That was an aha moment. Now we round not only on patients and families, but on staff as well," Frontczak says. "We can't expect them to be able to take exceptional care of our patients if we aren't taking care of them."
Keeping noise down
One area St. John's has zeroed in on to improve the patient experience is the noise level within its units. Harting says she saw firsthand what an impact noise can have on patients when her mother was recovering from emergency open-heart surgery 10 years ago.
Rene Letourneau is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.