happiness is contagious

Happiness is contagious

Vancouver Health Care Provider Ensures Staff is Engaged and Empowered to Give Patients their Best

As published in the Vancouver Sun – November 3, 2012

In any customer-facing organization often the best indicator of the service you are going to receive is the attitudes and behaviour of its employees. Typically, the happier, more engaged the employees the better the service you can expect.  But how do care organizations produce happy, motivated, employees? Research suggests that motivation is not uniform across all industries and that thought leaders in the best healthcare organizations are particularly adept at identifying those nuances that help drive the best patient outcomes and the happiest, most engaged workers.

Copeman's Dr Rhonda Low

To understand nuances in motivation it is necessary to understand subtleties in the working environment – or in other words, how the work gets done. In healthcare, standard operating procedures or SOP’s refer to detailed steps that are used to maximize safety and efficiency. They are found in all industries where reproducible results are required and errors are not well tolerated. They are a set of carefully thought out steps that are documented and form an important part of the industry’s training programs. Once SOP’s are in place there’s an expectation that an employee will follow them every time they are confronted with a particular situation. In healthcare, standard operating procedures exist for everything from front-end patient intakes, to physical examinations through to diagnostic tests and even how hazardous materials are discarded.

According to the Maslow Business Reader highly structured roles in any process-driven industry need to have other humanizing aspects to avoid worker disengagement. Employees can feel insulted if they feel they are treated as an interchangeable part, simply a cog in a larger machine. In healthcare, as in any industry, process is only useful to the extent that it delivers results, maximizes efficiency and avoids mistakes. But when the focus on process trumps patient outcomes workers can disengage, lose motivation and begin to question the contribution they are making. To avoid depersonalizing the work, employees need to understand the big picture – how their work contributes to the larger whole. How they can impact health outcomes.

“Healthcare professionals are a unique group of individuals,” says Holly Kennedy-Symonds, Executive Director of Copeman Healthcare – Vancouver, a leading private healthcare provider, “They are drawn to the industry by a desire to provide care, pursue clinical excellence and see patient results. When you create an environment for them to do all three you see whole teams achieving their potential.”A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “What Business Are We In: The Emergence of Health as the Business of Health Care” challenges care providers to consider outcomes with the same level of importance as process. The thesis of Asch & Volpp’s article is that in order to stay relevant, healthcare providers must focus not merely on established processes but equally on what outcomes they are obtaining.

“At Copeman Healthcare we offer ‘unhurried healthcare,’ an approach that allows us to do some really interesting things—to personalize care to meet the needs of our clients and really focus on outcomes,” Says Holly Kennedy-Symonds, “We have a strong culture of innovation that allows employees opportunities for growth and leadership development and we’ve developed strong social networks where employees can have fun.”

Copeman's Dr. Peter HouseThe evidence that Copeman Healthcare is getting it right came earlier this year when the company conducted its regular employee satisfaction survey. By regularly taking the pulse of the organization and listening to its employees the company achieved results that surpassed benchmarks of even the best companies. 91% of employees agreed that the organization inspired them to do their best work everyday, 93% felt they worked together to exceed client needs and 95% would recommend Copeman services to friends and family.

“Copeman Healthcare has developed a workplace and environment where our employees are encouraged to consistently look at opportunities for continuous improvement and embrace innovation,” says Wilma Watson, Director of People and Culture, “Innovation has become a part of our cultural fabric and that has led to all kinds of opportunities for employees.”

That engaged workforce has also translated into satisfied clients. In its most recent semi-annual survey Copeman clients also rewarded the organization with scores that exceeded industry standards. Providing further evidence that the happier the employees the better the customer service. The next time you arrive at your favourite care provider take time to study those smiles around you; you may just be in for some outstanding customer service.