Enhancing Employee Satisfaction to Improve Patient Care
Here are some simple steps you can take to make your office a positive place to work and increase employee satisfaction.
Many patient safety experts believe that a positive work environment and employee satisfaction can contribute to patient safety and reduce the risk of a malpractice claim. Several studies on the relationship between employee satisfaction and patient experience support the correlation.1 According to Barbara Balik, RN, Ed.D, a senior faculty member at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “We can only treat patients as well as we treat one another.”2 Following are simple steps you can take to make your office a positive place to work and increase employee satisfaction.
Offer flexible work schedules. If the size and hours of your practice allow it, consider offering employees flexible hours. Single parents might appreciate being able to arrange their work schedules around their children's school and day care hours. Other employees may prefer working longer days in exchange for having an extra day off.
Ask for input. Employees want to feel that their opinions matter and that office leaders are listening to them. Remember that front office employees often hear what patients are saying in the waiting room. These comments can provide insights on how to improve office practices. During staff meetings, ask employees what they are hearing from patients. If the comments point to a particular problem, ask for suggestions to resolve the issue. If your staff meetings are large gatherings where some employees may not feel comfortable speaking up, you may want to use anonymous employee suggestion forms.
Make patient safety a priority. Encourage employees to identify ways your office can be a safe place for patients. Ask them to take a few minutes each day to see things from your patient’s perspective. Did an elderly patient have trouble navigating a corridor with her walker? Did parents have to keep children away from something dangerous in the waiting room? Create a system for employees to report such incidents and encourage them to suggest ways to resolve the problem.
Don't forget employee safety. Sometimes the focus on patient safety takes precedent over protecting employees from harm. Encourage your staff to report any situation that could cause a staff injury. This might include loose wires behind the front office desk, a cluttered supply cabinet where sharps are not properly stored, or heavy items placed in a precarious manner where they could fall and injure someone.
Empower employees to go the extra mile for patients: Encourage employees to look for small ways to help patients. This might include helping an elderly patient out to her car, scheduling a test for a forgetful patient and calling to remind her about the appointment, and giving patients information about the medication discount programs offered by some pharmaceutical companies. When employees feel empowered to take the initiative, they will be more engaged in their jobs — which often results in better patient care.
Encourage participation in office decisions. If your office is making a big purchase such as a new telephone system or medical equipment, consider creating a team to evaluate options and make recommendations. The team might include employees from each area of your office staff. Remember that non-clinical employees can provide valuable input. They are patients too, and may see things from a different perspective than medical staff.
Invest in employees’ professional improvement. If your budget allows, encourage staff to take training courses that can improve their knowledge, skills and abilities. The Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management, the Medical Group Management Association and many local colleges offer training that can benefit your employees and enhance their value to your practice. When appropriate, offer to pay for employees to belong to associations and encourage participation in meetings and workshops.
Develop an employee recognition program. If you have a larger staff, choosing an employee of the month is a good way to recognize staff and encourage excellence. You could give the employee a small denomination gift card and hang their photo in the waiting room with an “Employee of the Month” banner above it. You might want to recognize employees for specific actions, such as showing extra compassion for a single mom with three sick kids or helping a patient on a tight budget find the best price for an expensive medication.
Show an interest in employees. In the rush of your busy day, it is easy to forget that your employees have lives apart from your office. Engaging staff members in short conversations show that you value each person apart from what they contribute to your office. Take a minute to ask how a child is doing in a chosen sport or music lessons. If an employee has plans for a fun weekend activity, the following week, ask about the activity. If you know that an employee’s family member is fighting a serious illness, let the employee know that they can take time off.
Contribute to performance evaluations: Your office manager or clerical staff supervisor may be responsible for conducting job evaluations for non-clinical staff. You may want to make it a practice to provide one positive comment for each employee’s evaluation. Employees may be motivated to do their best if they know that you appreciate their contribution to the practice.
Avoid showing favoritism towards particular employees. This may cause other employees to feel they are less important or can never voiced criticism towards the favored employee, even if it is warranted.
Encouraging all employees to contribute to your practice helps build teamwork and creates mutual respect and satisfaction among employees. Ultimately, satisfied staff will do their jobs better, resulting in higher patient satisfaction. In the event of a negative clinical outcome, satisfied patients are less likely to file a lawsuit.
1Peltier J and Dahl, A. The Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction
and Hospital Patient Experiences. University Of Wisconsin; Whitewater Frank
Mulhern Northwestern University. April 2009. Accessed Sept. 29, 2016: http://www.info-now.com/typo3conf/ext/p2wlib/pi1/press2web/html/userimg/FORUM/Hospital%20Study%20-Relationship%20Btwn%20Emp.%20Satisfaction%20and%20Pt.%20Experiences.pdf
2Jennifer Larson, contributor. The Connection Between Employee Satisfaction and Patient Satisfaction. AMN Healthcare. Accessed Sept. 29, 2016: http://www.amnhealthcare.com/latest-healthcare-news/459/1033/.