What can your billing department tell you about a nurse’s daily duties? What does the lab know about working the desk at reception? What insight does human resources have about pulling a shift in the ER?
The fact is, while healthcare institutions encompass dozens of specialists providing dozens of services, what they actually know about each other can be surprisingly little. Beyond simple, siloed thinking, this can lead to an overall lack of understanding and empathy between departments. And when understanding lags, care and value suffer.
By taking the time to “walk a mile” in another person’s shoes, you can avoid that “us versus them” mindset, improve the patient experience, and learn some amazing insights along the way.
“We needed to work on ourselves to be better caregivers to our patients,” says Jeff Smith of when he came on as HR Director for a Roanoke, VA-based health system. “Folks knew their own jobs, but that was it.”
Compounding this was the institution’s recent expansion. As more and more off-site services became in-house, Jeff was looking at a body of employees that were virtual strangers to each other.
We had clinician versus non-clinician. Lab versus physician. There was a potential for making mistakes and placing blame. For us to grow, that had to change.
Voltage Leadership Consulting
To overcome these barriers, Jeff instituted the walk-a-mile program. A simple methodology, walk-a-mile engages members of different departments to spend a day shadowing each other. Jeff, for example, shadowed a nurse for a shift.
“The results were tremendous,” Jeff recalls. “It knocked down assumptions. People realized that other departments weren’t objects. They were composed of people, just like them.”
One concrete result was higher morale scores on annual employee surveys. When employees knew more about the experiences and challenges of their co-workers, it enhanced the overall sense of mission and purpose.
I had no idea what it was like to be a nurse. Or all of the skills involved. Or the pressure a lab person faced.
— Employee survey comment
Jeff sums up this new sense of unity that the program provided: “If you walk a mile, you’ll be willing to go that extra mile for your institution—and the patient.”
While tactical details may vary by institution, these simple steps can get your walk-a-mile off to a brisk start.