The “Why”

As I mentioned in the blog I posted Monday, I spent part of last week learning about the strategies the Studer Group has developed to make healthcare better for employees to work, physicians to practice medicine and for patients to receive care.

The “Why” kept coming up over and over again in the throughout the course of the conference.  I’m involved in most of the decisions that affect our organization and I can tell you from a first hand perspective that every organizational decision we make is fully vetted and is made after thorough consideration of all potential options.  I believe we do a very good job in making the best possible decisions for GVMH.

What we can do a better job of is helping everyone understand WHY a particular decision was made. 

Let me give you a real world, relevant example:  One of the departments that reports to me recently made the decision to adopt a uniform color (contrary to rumor every department that reports to me does NOT have to declare a uniform scrub color).  I am supportive of specific colors for specific services or departments because it increases patient satisfaction and patient safety.  There are two things we should focus on every time we make a decision: patient safety and patient satisfaction – does anything else really matter?

I leave it up to, and support, the directors who report me to and chose for their department to adopt a uniform color if they believe doing so will facilitate patient satisfaction and patient safety.

If you are a patient at GVMH and a staff person walks into your room wearing solid red scrubs you know that person is from Rehab Services.  If you are a patient at GVMH and a staff person walks into your room wearing solid navy scrubs you know that person is from Radiology. 

Once a patient is familiar with the colors of a specific service they identify the color with the service.  We have several staff members who provide PT services and several staff members who perform x-rays and a patient may not see the same person twice but they know without a doubt by the color of their scrubs what the person does to assist in the patient’s care as soon as the staff person enters the room. 

The scrub color is associated with a service and the patient’s anxiety level is put at ease when they understand the color associated with the service being provided as soon as that color is seen.  Decreased patient anxiety = increased patient satisfaction!

A uniform scrub color also increases patient safety and let me give you an extreme example.  I’ve been at GVMH for almost 16 years and the happiest day I’ve had at GVMH was three years ago when my son was born in the birthing center.  Fortunately, we have great staff in the birthing center and I know most of them.  If I didn’t know them I knew where they worked because the birthing center staff wore matching scrubs.  I knew, without a doubt, when I handed my son, my most valuable possession in the entire world, to someone – I knew that person was a staff member in the birthing center and they had a legitimate reason to take my son out of my sight.  The matching scrubs decreased my anxiety but they also increased the safety of my son. 

If someone would have entered our room in the birthing center without the right color of scrubs do you think I would hand them my whole world…not a chance.  In fact, I would probably hold him tight and run or yell for help.  The scrubs I associated with the birthing center kept my son safe!

The birthing center example is an easy one when it comes to patient safety but the same is true of every area.  If a patient were receiving chemotherapy in our outpatient treatment center and the patient associated a particular scrub color with the staff who provide chemo and the patient had been coming for several months of treatment and then one day, all of a sudden, the care provider of the day has on a color the patient isn’t familiar with do you think the patient would ask “Where’s the regular chemo staff” or “you don’t look like you belong here” and what if that was enough to prevent that patient from getting a lethal dose of chemo…

Color seems a small price to pay for a life…nonetheless, the why is important and I need to do a better job of explaining “Why”.

Now, let me also be clear about timing and transition.  Any department choosing to adopt a uniform color must give staff appropriate time to make the transition and the time to make the transition is the only thing I will not support a department director in if I do not believe it is sufficient and fair.  Afterall, none of us should be expected to replace our wardrobe overnight.  If I had to pay for my wife to replace her wardrobe in a short period of time, I would need to take a second mortgage out on my home!!!

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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