Hospital Impact: To boost care quality, engage frontline staff

Healthcare leaders must treat each of their frontline staff as the caregivers they are. Image: Getty/AndreyPopov
headshot of Thomas Dahlborg
Thomas Dahlborg

Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to teach a communication framework called AIDET Plus the PromiseSM to employees of a large mission-driven healthcare organization. 

As the day went along and the teaching continued, I was more and more reminded of the impact of people connecting at both the heart and mind level with patients, families and one another.

In the conference room there were folks from nursing, human resources, housekeeping, transportation and many other areas all seeking to do worthwhile work and make a difference in the lives of others.

As I taught, I noticed a young woman from housekeeping nodding and smiling. She shared, “I love my patients. I love cleaning their rooms because I know in doing so, I keep them safe. I love hearing my patients’ stories. And I love when they remember me.”

This housekeeper truly understood her organization’s mission and was living her (and their) values. She was engaging, she was connecting and she was impacting.

As I continued to teach, I also continued to watch and listen to this housekeeper, as I highlighted the importance of “the promise” and how this commitment provides hope to patients and families.

Her enthusiasm brought back a long-ago memory, when a good friend was cherished by a custodian at a Boston hospital:

“May I come in?”

“Oh yes, please.”

“I see you are crying. What can I do for you right now? I have time.”

“I am so lonely. My daughter and I have been in this hospital for a week, it is now Easter morning and I miss my husband and my other children. I miss going to Easter Mass as a family,” she said, weeping.

“Don’t despair. You are not alone.” And then, placing his hand gently on her shoulder, this custodian handed this distraught mother a stuffed Easter bunny, saying, “I am here for you. We all are.”

Now, 15 years later, it was once again a housekeeper who was truly engaged in providing compassionate care.

“I always tell my patients that I love their unit, I love their nurses, how their nurse Linda took such good care for my brother … and I see in their eyes a change in their energy. They relax a bit,” my new friend in housekeeping continued.

Every day, each and every one of us has the opportunity to provide healthcare (healthCARING) in every interaction with our patients and their families. Yes, doctors and nurses. Yes, therapists and counselors. Yes, transport aides and registrars. Yes, housekeepers and custodians. Yes, volunteers and valets. Yes, even CEOs and CFOs. All of us.

Healthcare leaders, treat each of your frontline staff as the caregivers they are. Honor them as such. Position them to connect (or reconnect, if necessary) to their purpose, their “why,” their passion, and provide them with the tools and safe space to authentically connect with and engage patients each and every time.

Want to improve your HCAHPS scores?

Or, more importantly, want to improve quality, safety and outcomes?

Want to honor your mission to provide compassionate care and improve the health of your community?

Engage your frontline staff and watch the impact. It will be profound.

Thomas H. Dahlborg, M.S.H.S.M., is an industry voice for relationship-centered compassionate care and servant leadership. He is a keynote speaker, author, consultant and adviser and is the president of the Dahlborg Healthcare Leadership Group.