Facility eliminates staff irritants with WOW team

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Nurse managers know that when staff satisfaction is high, staff turnover rates are low, collaboration is more effective, and patient care is optimal. But what keeps staff satisfied is sometimes a mystery—one that can be solved if staff are given the opportunity to voice their stressors and irritants, as big or little as they may be.

Such was Trinity Health System's reason behind forming its multidisciplinary WOW team, which works to reduce staff nuisances and improve the organization's work environment.

"Your primary concern is the quality of care for your patients," says Deena Franke, CPCS, medical staff secretary and member of the WOW team at the facility located in Steubenville, OH. "You can see a difference between a person who comes to work miserable, and in the way they treat patients and in someone who is happy. If a facility has happy employees, it's going to trickle down into patient care."

Building the team

Trinity formed its WOW team in June 2008 as part of a systemwide initiative to transform facility culture. Nineteen staff members from various departments in the facility currently drive the team, including:

  • Nurses
  • Case managers
  • Medical staff
  • Laboratory staff
  • Housekeeping staff
  • Dietary staff
  • Information technology staff

"We wanted a good mix of employees so we could [identify] what our entire employee population needed," says Dean Lucarelli, MSCIS, information technology project coordinator and WOW team member.

The facility distributed staff satisfaction surveys and held meetings to solicit staff members' recommendations on improving culture. Suggestion boxes placed in the cafeterias of two of Trinity's campuses provided further insight and direction for the team's first initiatives.

Committing to WOW

WOW team members meet for one hour each week to discuss goals for reducing nonpolicy staff irritants within the facility. The team works together to devise work plans for any initiatives, which then must be submitted to the facility's education leadership council for approval.

Team members can eat lunch during the meetings, which are casual, but structured, so they start and stop on time. Because administration at Trinity strongly supports WOW, the facility pays staff who are not working during team meetings for coming in for them, says Franke.

Still, Lucarelli admits nurses' schedules and workloads can make it a challenge to pull them off the floor. "If facilities want to form a team like this, nurses need to be freed up to participate," Lucarelli says.

In addition, Franke stresses the need for nurse managers who support these team members.

"It is a commitment by everybody," Franke says. "Nurse managers [at Trinity] encourage employees to participate. Managers have to lead by example and buy into a culture change before it will actually work."

Ridding employee annoyances

Trinity has seen a number of changes since implementing the WOW team, which continues to meet weekly to discuss strategies to improve the workplace for staff.

An employee check-cashing program removes the hassle of getting charged an ATM fee. Cash-strapped staff now have the option of cashing personal checks for $20 or less at cafeteria registers.

An additional cash register opened in the cafeteria allowing staff to enjoy more of their 30-minute lunch breaks by expediting lines.

Nightshift staff can park their vehicles directly in front of Trinity, rather than in its large parking arena where they would wait for a shuttle to transport them to the facility. The parking lot has also been redone, adding line designation to reduce previous staff parking aggravations.

And each time the WOW team carries out a new initiative, staff are alerted of it via e-mail so they know their voices are being heard.

"What we are striving for is a partnership between employees and the hospital so we can work together to make this a great place to work—and a place people want to work," says Lucarelli.