Support front-line staff for happier patients, workers

Hospitals that support front-line staff are more likely to provide high-quality care, according to a new study in the journal Health Services Research. Establishing a supportive, high-performance work environment also is linked to significantly better job satisfaction and employee retention.

More than 1,500 front-line staff survey responses from nine New York hospitals showed that hospital work environments that value and support a broad range of front-line workers had higher rates of patient satisfaction and lower likelihood of adverse events, Health Behavior News Service reported.

"How we treat hospital workers--whether we support them, give them a say in decisions about their work, and treat them not as interchangeable or dispensable cogs in a wheel but as a valued resource--affects their ability to work together to provide care that patients want and need," lead author Dana Beth Weinberg, associate professor at Queens College and the department of sociology at the Graduate Center-CUNY, told Health Behavior News Service.

In a recent Hospital Impact blog post, Thomas Dahlborg lamented over the fact that healthcare leaders who make decisions that affect staff and patients aren't listening to those working on the frontlines of healthcare. "[Front-line staff] people are in the know; they are passionate, they care, and they are the ones who are most connected to our patients. These people must be heard if we are to truly improve the care we provide to patients and families while also managing our limited resources more effectively," he wrote.

His post emphasizes the dangers of not supporting front-line staff, which include unhappy workers and employee turnover, as well as inferior patient care. For example, one medical receptionist in a primary care practice said several physicians left after a local hospital system bought her practice to form an accountable care organization. "Leadership is removed and isn't listening to us on the frontlines, and patients and families are being harmed. I am not valued, and I am counting the days until I can leave this job," she said.

To enhance support for front-line workers, hospital management can involve staff in the decision-making process, foster information sharing across the organization and implement human resource processes that develop workers' skills, Health Behavior News Service noted.

For more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the Health Behavior News Service article