Patient care is supposed to be about the patient and doing your best to care for their needs… serving them. So to me customer service…serving patients should be common sense. However, after years of witnessing behaviors that demonstrate anything but service, I have concluded common sense is not always so common.
Having said that I am a firm believer that nurses and other healthcare providers come to work each day wanting to do their best.
So what causes the less than caring behaviors?
Sometimes we get caught up in the tasks needing to be completed and lose sight of why we are doing them in the first place. No one tries to do this; it just happens when we set out to accomplish what needs to be done. We need to refocus on why we are doing the tasks; it’s about the patients.
In my experiences of working to improve patient care, it helps to think about who are our patients? It helps to remind ourselves why the tasks we are doing are so important. What we do is personal.
- Someone’s parent, sibling, child, or friend
- The reason you have a job
- The purpose of your work, not a disruption to it.
- The most important person in your organization!
HCAHPS supposedly captures what matters most to patients. These results are public knowledge and can negatively impact a hospital’s reputation. The key areas looked at are:
- Courtesy and respect
- Good customer service
- Responsiveness of hospital staff /Management control
- Information / To be empowered
- Explanations in easy to understand terms from Doctors and Nurses
- Pain relief
- Clean rooms and bathrooms
- Information when they leave
These needs require ongoing personal effort by everyone at the facility incorporating good customer service. Everyone needs to be engaged in serving the patient needs and aware of how their behavior impacts patient perceptions.
Moments of Truth were explained years ago in a book by the same name. These are “Any time your customers/patients have an opportunity to form an opinion about your organization or department.” These moments begin at the time patients arrive at your organization until they leave. If all employees provide good customer service patients will form positive opinions and the “moments of truth” will be positive.
How is healthcare customer service different?
There are certain differences in customer service in healthcare compared to other industries. The product nurses and others provide, is intrinsically connected to the one providing it. In other words, if the nurse is not warm, friendly or compassionate when providing the care, the patient is going to see the care provided as less than optimal, no matter how competent the nurse may be. When patients receive good service, they feel safe, cared for, and respected, and they view their caregivers positively.
But looking at customers as only patients is not enough. Many studies have shown if employees do not treat each other well, patient satisfaction suffers. Customers are both internal and external.
Internal customers are those employees you interact with and need to get your job done. Other nurses, managers, doctors, nurse assistants, other departments. External customers are those outside the organization who receive the services you provide. Your patients, families, visitors are external customers.
Treating our co-workers with respect and caring is fundamental to providing excellent patient care. Patients can tell if there is conflict or poor teamwork on the unit. To improve patient satisfaction and customer service, we must begin by treating each other well.
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