Are you in a hospital leadership position? Whether you are in the C-Suite or managing 24/7 care on a clinical unit you understand the challenge in maintaining focus and finding balance in today’s chaotic environment.
If you have ever hiked in the Rockies you know that a trail map and good compass are very helpful. In fact, they are essential if you plan to return home someday. Forests are amazing, rejuvenating and inspirational because there is so much variety in the nature around you. It is easy to become absorbed in your immediate surrounding but what happens when you lose track of time and location?
Even the experienced backwoodsman can be caught off guard when they lose sight of their place in the whole of a forest. The same is true for experienced leaders in hospital care. Your weather is just as unpredictable as weather in the high country. Like the hiker, you can suffer the consequence of losing your perspective during your journey.
Is it the Forest or the Trees?
In a previous post for a new site, EngagingPatients.org , I discussed the confusion around the term “patient engagement”. Because this term lacks a clear definition, its meaning rests in the mind of person using the term. The danger here for hospital leadership is very much like the danger to the hiker who loses track of his location. You may find yourself going in circles, spending limited time and resources without a noticeable improvement in patient satisfaction and ultimately being caught unprepared at nightfall.
Team Exercise to Define Patient Engagement: Are You Lost in a Forest of Patient Engagement?
You need a compass to guide your teams. So where is the compass? It rests in the clinicians who walk the path and care for patients every day. The clinician-patient relationship is the most valuable asset in any hospital. These people know what it means to “engage” a patient, so why not ask them to define “patient engagement” as it applies to their clinical area?
In fact, if the unit level teams can define engagement as it applies best to their patients, the next step is to see patients engaged in safety for their own care. This will look very different in the PACU from Mother-Baby, or the OR from Oncology. But if we are being graded on engagement and safety through measures like the HCAHPS we are lost without unit-based definitions.
Can we engage patients in their own safety? The National Patient Safety Foundation shows mounting evidence that partnership with patients is essential if we are to achieve optimal outcomes and avoid errors. A new award enters the scene in May to highlight the importance of engaging patients and improving safety. The John Q. Sherman award will be presented for innovative programs that bring patient and family engagement to the forefront in safe effective care.
Clinician-Patient Partnership Compass
This relationship is the heart of healthcare. Many fear it is on life support amidst the chaos today but if it becomes the compass within your organization you will not lose sight of the whole. This excerpt from David Wagoner’s famous poem, Lost , is offered for contemplation.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.
The forest knows where you are.
You must let it find you.