Leadership can mean different things to different people. At OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, we have a firm belief in leadership development across all areas of the organization. But as is the case with many in healthcare, they are clinicians first, trained in caring for patients’ medical needs. That doesn’t necessarily translate to having good leadership and managerial skills. To help us improve the process, we took a step back and looked at our organization through the eyes of another.
It began in 2000 when seven of us—including a physician, nurse and the vice president of human resources—paid a visit to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, a 200-bed facility, one-third the size of OSF Saint Francis, with a patient base that ran the gamut. In the 1990s, Quint Studer had been named president of Baptist. When he came on board, patient satisfaction scores were low and staff morale wasn’t much better, and he knew things had to change. It was one of those moments that can define you as a leader. Studer knew what had to change at Baptist was the culture—staff had to truly focus on patients and their needs, and the administration had to give them the skills to do so. And it worked. Baptist has been No. 1 in patient satisfaction in the nation for more than 10 years.
The seven of us spent two days observing all aspects of Baptist’s operation. That experience changed the way we develop our leadership and changed our culture.
We have always had a strong mission statement at OSF Saint Francis—to serve persons with the greatest care and love in a community that celebrates the gift of life. But after our visit to Baptist, we knew we had to encourage staff at all levels to really live the mission and make it come alive in our everyday lives.
So how are we doing it? As I said earlier, we had to retrain clinicians to be leaders, and we are doing that through our leadership development program. Two to three times a year, we take members of our management team—and with nearly 6,000 employees, that number is in the hundreds—off campus for leadership training sessions. Topics range from team-building skills, crossing the generational divide, the power of trust and how to round on those they supervise to help them achieve and exceed to the best of their abilities.
According to Lynn Gillespie, our VP of human resources who was on that initial Baptist visit, one of the most important aspects we focus on is decreasing leader variance. Everyone doesn’t manage in the same way. We need to help them have the competencies they need to engage their employees consistently. We have identified best practices and want to make sure they are hard-wired throughout the leadership team. Some of this required revisiting some of the tactics to improve patient, employee and physician satisfaction, and increase individual accountability.
This has been a cultural revolution, and it reinforces one of the things we learned at Baptist—you can’t compete with culture. We believe that leadership is the single most important factor in creating and sustaining a culture. We want our patients and their families to feel it in the care they receive. We want to empower all of our employees to do things from their hearts rather than just their heads, because it is the right thing to do.
One example of this involves the nursing care team for a patient in our cardiac unit whose son lived on the west coast. The staff recognized that the man was dying and wanted nothing more than to see his son and daughter-in-law one more time. But the distance—and cost—made that difficult for the family. At OSF Saint Francis, we have a special fund to which employees contribute that is used to pay for the extraordinary needs of patients. A request was made to pay for the son and his wife to fly in to see his father. Two hours after arriving, and having the chance to say their goodbyes, the man died with his family by his side. His care team took the lead and gave his family a lasting memory.
Good leaders are not afraid to empower others to lead, to follow their hearts, to do what is right.
One of the exciting things we are looking forward to in the coming year is focusing on innovation competency in our leadership. With all of the changes ahead in healthcare, we have to be creative and proactive. As we continue to encourage and embrace this cultural revolution at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, we know it is ultimately what is best for our patients. iBi