Driving nurse excellence and engagement will be essential to delivering on patient satisfaction and experience.
By Sara Heath
– When it comes to nurse engagement, efforts must go a lot further than just driving good job satisfaction. In fact, nurse excellence isn’t entirely about the nurses at all, although they are important. Instead, nurse engagement is an essential means to yield an overall positive patient experience, connecting all of the key elements of healthcare into one cohesive picture.
The call for good patient experiences is not something new. Healthcare has long valued the patient, striving for excellent bedside manner and good clinical quality outcomes. But in an age where healthcare consumerism reigns supreme and CMS reimbursements hinge on good satisfaction scores, driving that positive hospital experience has become even more crucial.
But building that experience is extremely nuanced, most industry experts can appreciate. A good patient experience requires a balance of certain hospitality elements, patient safety, and meaningful interactions between patients and staff.
And that’s hard, experts say. Hospitals only have so many resources to dedicate to facility amenities and clinicians are strapped for time, seriously hindering their ability to connect with patients on a personal level. Patient safety, although essential to clinical quality outcomes, can falter to human error in the most unfortunate cases, despite best efforts. Communicating those lapses then present a whole new challenge.
But those challenges aren’t insurmountable, especially when nurses are engaged. These clinicians are on the frontlines of everything ranging from patient interactions to medical care. So, when nurses thrive, everything else thrives, too, according to Christy Dempsey, DNP, MSN, MBA, CNOR, CENP, FAAN, the chief nursing officer at healthcare consulting firm, Press Ganey.
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“A culture of nursing excellence really does impact everything,” Dempsey said in a recent interview with PatientEngagementHIT. “If you have a good culture of nursing excellence, then you’re more likely to have better physician engagement. You’re more likely to see that patient experience of their physicians, not just of the nurses, is better. Clinical quality is better. It’s the rising tide that lifts all boats in healthcare.”
As noted above, nursing excellence looks like a lot more than just good job perks and satisfaction, although those factors can be important. Instead, nursing excellence is about developing and advancing strong nurse leaders, who are then able to advocate for their patients and nurse peers.
“Nursing excellence requires a structure within the organization that supports shared governance so that nurses at every level are helping and involved in making decisions, measuring transparency of data, and establishing performance benchmarks and promoting autonomy for nurses inside that shared governance framework,” Dempsey explained.
Nurturing a culture of provider teamwork and implementing care frameworks that emphasize not just clinical quality, but safety and patient experience as well, is another key hallmark of nursing excellence.
But although the industry has a good model of what nursing excellence is – strong team-based care that gives all stakeholders the tools to succeed – it isn’t always happening.
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“We are in an environment that is constantly changing. It’s complex in terms of the patients and the venues, the continuum of care,” Dempsey said. “There are a lot of pressures within healthcare today.”
But it’s those very factors that hamper efforts for nurse excellence that nurse engagement and empowerment can solve. When nurses are empowered, Dempsey maintained, the patient can thrive because the team can thrive.
“Even in today’s complex, constantly changing healthcare environment, that culture of nursing excellence can be fostered, promoted, and then impact everything else that happens in healthcare,” Dempsey asserted.
Healthcare organizations on a journey to nurse excellence need to start where they are today. Understanding their current competency in patient safety, nurse experience, and clinical quality and experience will be important for understanding the root causes of any underperformance they see in their facility, Dempsey instructed.
From there, organizations can design a path forward.
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“Define what the nursing professional practice model in your practice is,” Dempsey said. “Once you have determined that, you’ve got to make sure that you have CEO and board support for that model and that the chief nursing officers and nursing leadership are involved in executive level decision making at the C suite and the board level.”
A nursing shared governance that included nurse managers and engages bedside nurses will help organizations build their accountability structure, leading nurses and other stakeholders to take ownership of the process. Stakeholders should also play a hand in writing out job descriptions, performance reviews, and standards for clinical practice.
After that, teams must scale that plan organization-wide.
“You need to establish a communication plan so that you are able to disseminate information and initiatives that help you drive towards nursing excellence,” Dempsey said. “You must have an organizational strategy for data transparency in how you talk about the data. You can’t just post it on the wall. How do you talk about the data and wrap stories around that data to make it come to life? Then, look at the specific work unit information and communication strategies.”
All of this must lead to an optimized work environment, Dempsey continued. Work environment, or the factors that make a job doable and even enjoyable, is even more important that staffing levels, Dempsey reported.
“Optimizing that nursing work environment is so important,” she said. “That includes the leadership development plan, how you are engaging nurses and fostering their development, and how you are providing incentives for professional development.”
Organizations must also assess how they are assuring they have the appropriate resources – both human and material – and emotional support for nurses. This will allow nurses to continue efforts for patient-centered care.
“Make sure that you’re optimizing staffing so that you have the right people taking care of the right patients in the right place at the right time,” Dempsey stated.
“Then, finally, track integrated metrics, so reducing silos both in terms of operations, but also in terms of the way we look at data,” she continued. “Integrate that data so that you can see things and how things move together — or don’t. This will help you draw insights from that integrated data and then build improvement plans, and accountability and ownership plans based on that integrated data.”
All of this will hinge on a culture of team-based care. The organizations that Dempsey sees fully committed to a culture of excellence are already deploying strong team-based care strategies, fostering collaboration, communication, and support across the team. This is a symbiotic relationship, she said, because the culture of excellence also draws on the whole hospital team.
And at the end of the day, that is what will help organizations push to the next level in value-based and patient-centered care.
“Driving nursing excellence is not just a good idea, it makes good fiscal sense,” Dempsey concluded. “It makes good sense to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. It is the rising tide that will help health care. We need to really promote that.”
I trust this article has provided you with insight and approaches that can help you pinpoint those drivers that most strongly influence a patient’s willingness to recommend a hospital. If you are interested in learning more about using these methods, contact us at: TPMG Global® – Improving HCAHPS Scores and The Patient Experience