Best Practices of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare

October 22, 2012 - Healthcare employers, both large and small, strive to develop a healthy work environment--one that supports their employees and helps everyone perform at their best in caring for patients and meeting other organizational goals.  While there isn’t a magic formula, there are a few best practices that have helped some hospitals become sought-after employers with high retention and performance rates, as noted in Modern Healthcare’s 2012 Best Places to Work in Healthcare list.

Some of these essential elements include a commitment to delivering quality care, opportunities for professional development and a friendly environment dedicated to people.

Best Practices of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare
Traci Bernard, RN, said the hospital exists to serve the needs of each individual, be it the patient, family member, doctor or employee.

“We’ve taken health care back to its original purpose, and that’s really focusing on people--not just the patients and physicians, but the employee,” said Traci Bernard, RN, president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southlake in Southlake, which came in as the industry’s 14th Best Place to Work.

Modern Healthcare collects information from both the employer and employees for its annual listing. It asks employers about policies and practices, benefits and demographics. It queries employees about leadership, planning, culture, communication, satisfaction, the environment, relationship with supervisors, opportunities for training and development, pay and benefits.

Employees at Wamego City Hospital, in Wamego, Kan., the No. 1 ranked employer, cited annual parties, birthday lunches with the CEO, anniversary gifts, an employee emergency fund, and paid time off for volunteering in the community as among their favorite things about working there.

Workers at Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) in Portsmouth, Ohio, ranked 10th overall, cited being treated with respect and dignity as a best-loved attribute. They also praised an “awesome tuition assistance program,” competitive salaries and benefits, community discount programs, and an employee relief fund and assistance programs.

Best Practices of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare
Vicki Noel credits Southern Ohio Medical Center’s culture with boosting its ranking.

“It’s the culture,” said Vicki Noel, vice president of human resources at SOMC, which has achieved the honor for three years. Noel reported that many employees drive past one or two hospitals to reach SOMC. “We’re family focused and grow our own.”

The hospital pays 100 percent tuition assistance for employees and family members studying nursing, and the scholars program requires a work commitment. Nurses also seek out the hospital for its Magnet status, Noel said, but the hospital’s transparency, “telling it like it is,” and shared decision making appeals to all employees.

“That feedback loop and cycle of information is part of what attracts the individuals we have working here,” Noel said.

Keeping staff in the know is an important attribute for hospitals.

Best Practices of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare
Alayna Chambers, RN, said she considers it an honor and pleasure to come to work at Texas Health Southlake every day.

Alayna Chambers, RN, a nurse at Texas Health Southlake, praised her facility’s transparency and called it the best job she has had in her 30-year nursing career.

“Our staff, starting at the top with our leadership, is truly caring, visible and accountable,” Chambers said. “Transparency is a good thing when it comes to our hospital--nothing to hide and everything to show.”

Bernard finds hiring the right employees is a key factor, and then retaining people that help the organization create the culture Texas Health wants for patients--a culture of “Yes, we can.” She added that the hospital strives to be “the best place to work, the best place to practice medicine, and the best place to receive care.” 

Best Practices of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare
Donna Grace, MBA, RN, CNA, CCM, said that after five years at Texas Health Southlake, she remains amazed by the extraordinary level of commitment employees bring to their work.

Donna Grace, MBA, RN, CNA, CCM, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Texas Health Southlake, added that she is “amazed by the extraordinary level of commitment our employees bring to their work. Everyone working at our hospital is engaged in providing high-quality, safe patient care, thus providing the best service to our patients and our physicians. At Texas Health Southlake, we all know why we come to work each day, enjoy what we do, and the rewards are infinite.”

Marty Simon, RN, BSN, CNOR, MSHCA, director of surgical services at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound, which came in 17th on the Modern Healthcare list, also cited employees as what sets the hospital apart.

“We have a group of people with more pride in their facility than I have encountered in 32 years in health care,” Simon said. “We work with our neighbors and care for our neighbors.”

Texas Health Flower Mound focuses on quality of care, so employers are proud of their facility. It recognizes successes and offers tuition reimbursement and bonus pay for certification.

Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque, N.M., also offers additional pay for certification. It came in 13th on the Modern Healthcare ranking. Employees praised the hospital’s professional certification program, with extra hourly pay, and student loan forgiveness program, which pays $5,000 annually for each year the nurse works at the hospital. Employees called it a great working environment with learning opportunities.

Best Practices of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare
Carol Shelton cites learning opportunities, flexible scheduling and celebrations with helping Lovelace Women’s Hospital become a Best Place to Work.

“We want this to be about learning and growing, adding value to yourself and what you are able to do for our organization,” said Carol Shelton, director of human resources at Lovelace Women’s.

The hospital sponsors a variety of celebrations and recognitions and focuses on quality results. Retention and recruitment teams provide feedback about policies. The hospital holds focus groups and regularly surveys employees to keep leadership on top of the issues of concern to workers, such as generational challenges and designing work to accommodate an aging workforce. It has offered a variety of shifts and opened up opportunities for experienced nurses to practice in different capacities. 

“It feels like family, people know each other by name, and you have collaboration” Shelton said. “We have dedicated, loyal employees. I am blessed every day to see all of them, how passionate they are and how compassionate they are with our patients.”