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The Power of Celebration: A Simple Secret in Improving The Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 4, 2012

Last week I had the privilege of attending an award ceremony designed to recognize the accomplishments of healthcare organizations for performance on patient experience measures, HCAHPS scores and service innovations. The recipients came from across the spectrum of care settings including acute care, critical access, physician practices, outpatient and home health. I have attended a number of events like this in the past and have always been moved by the enthusiasm and excitement generated by this type of recognition. Yet at this event, I was struck by something I may have been missing all along.

Whether a large national event of this type or a recognition event in a single healthcare organization, what I discovered is that there is something significant hiding just beyond our efforts at recognition. Recognition is a powerful tool in organizational settings. It has been shown to bolster engagement of staff, increase satisfaction and even boost motivation. Yet, what I suggest is often missed is taking one more step beyond acknowledgement and recognition. It is a magic opportunity we often fall short of in healthcare, the power of celebration.

I am not talking about hanging a sign on a unit to say congratulations for a performance achievement or even singing happy birthday at monthly staff forums. All these activities are important, but remain the rational part of creating cultures of engagement. One could argue these are celebrations, and while I would not disagree, they seem more often to be a thoughtful acknowledgement of accomplishment. By celebration I also don't suggest the need for costly or even lavish events, I am talking about the emotional connection we have to our success. Celebration is not a certificate or sign, it is the true expression of appreciation from the heart and shared with colleagues and peers.

So how can you use celebration? It may be the attendance of a senior leader at a unit huddle to express why the service efforts of a staff member had a positive impact on the experience of a patient or family member. It could be bringing the prom or an anniversary or birthday party to a patient’s room. It could be a red carpet welcome in the lobby for a volunteer on her 20 years of service or a thoughtful send off for a long time patient who healed and is now leaving your facility. So how do you know that you are celebrating versus recognizing? You feel it on the inside. Versus a virtual handshake, it is a virtual hug. Recognition is something you do; it is rational and thoughtful. Celebration is something you experience; it is emotional and heart-felt.

In a work environment where stress can run high and emotion sits just below (and at times above) the surface in every encounter, by moving beyond recognition (not leaving it behind) and ensuring true celebration, we intentionally provide an experience for our team, our patients, our families and our communities. The reality is they are having an experience whether we design one or not. In celebration we create lasting memories, the very essence of experience itself – that which is remembered. In doing so we unleash the potential of our people, acknowledge the humanity of our patients and allow the true purpose and passion in our work to emerge. Through celebration we enliven and enrich our organizations and we create new opportunities to positively impact the patient experience.

At The Beryl Institute we work tirelessly to ensure we celebrate the amazing work taking place in healthcare every day. I invite you to share your story. How do use celebration to enliven the patient experience in your organization? Provide your comments below.

Jason A. Wolf
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Employee Engagement.

Tags:  bottom line  celebration  culture  improving patient experience  Patient Experience  recognition  service excellence 

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Comments on this post...

Anne Clouatre says...
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012
We make huge "homemade" thank you cards at our 27-member Patient Satisfaction Strategy Team meetings and every member signs them. At the end of the meeting we don silly and outrageous-looking sunglasses and go to the unit/floor/department that we are celebrating. We arrive and let them know why we are there to recognize and celebrate them. We take photos and provide a write-up about the event that then is printed and distributed to all associates in the following week's E-Update digital newsletter. Photos are also posted in the employee bulletin boards.
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Wendy Leebov says...
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2012
I love this article and couldn't agree more about the of CELEBRATION! When I was at Einstein in Philadelphia years ago, I was disturbed the main CELEBRATION focused on Years-of-Service. While Years-of Service is worth rewarding, we started an ANNUAL celebration for wonderful service (PERFORMANCE) based on the Academy Awards, complete with an amazing Academy Awards Ceremony---an EXPERIENCE-- with many people in formal attire, a red carpet and photos as nominees arrived, and instead of Oscars--little busts of Albert Einstein. It was a beloved annual event for many years (not sure if it's still happening). Award Categories • BEST SHORT FILM: Has gone above and beyond on a special project -- system-wide or within the department/program.
• BEST DOCUMENTARY: Coordinates records and attends to details.
• BEST FOREIGN FILM: Shows respect for cultural differences and the dignity of each individual.
• SPECIAL EFFECTS AWARD (Staff): Is a role model; inspires coworkers and customers.
• SPECIAL EFFECTS AWARD (Manager): Is a role model; inspires coworkers and customers.
• SUNDOWNER AWARD: Keeps things running long after the day staff have gone home.
• BEST DIRECTOR: As a formal or informal leader, shows inspiration, fairness, directness and approachability.
• BEST ART DIRECTOR: Makes hospitality and responsiveness to patients and each other a habit, adding warmth to our environment.
• BEST SOUND EFFECTS: Anticipates, prevents and relieves customer anxiety; helps people feel calm.
• BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Does not provide direct patient care or services, but supports those who do in an exemplary way.
• BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Does not provide direct patient care or services, but supports those who do in an exemplary way.
• BEST PRODUCER: Never says, "It just can't be done," or "It'll never work," somehow finds a way.
• BEST COMEDY: Keeps our spirits high and enhances life at work.
• BEST PERFORMANCE IN A DEBUT ROLE (Staff): Has been here a short time, and has already become an exceptional part of the team.
• BEST PERFORMANCE IN A DEBUT ROLE (Manager): Has been here a short time, and has already become an exceptional part of the team.
• DAYTIMER AWARD: Insists on ever-higher quality in their daily work. Nothing short of “great” will do.
• BEST CAMEO APPEARANCE: Per diem or weekend employee who is vital to the operation of the system and their team.
• PHYSICIAN PARTNERSHIP AWARD: Is a true partner in Care with Compassion to our patients.
• PATIENT'S CHOICE AWARD: Consistently receives positive feedback from our patients, family members and visitors.
• BEST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Leader who exemplifies impressive customer service.
• BEST SCRIPT WRITER: Is an excellent documenter, whose content is clear and handwriting readable.
• BEST PROMOTIONAL DIR (Staff): Is a cheerleader for the system, always positive about the great things happening at HOSPITAL.
• BEST PROMOTIONAL DIRECTOR (Manager): Is a cheerleader for HOSPITAL, always positive about the great things happening at HOSPITAL.
• NIGHT OWL AWARD: Is enthusiastic, energetic and hard-working (11-7)
• FILM EDITING AWARD: Is dependable, trustworthy, a "behind the scenes" person who often goes unnoticed.
• BEST MUSICAL SCORE: Always greets our patients professionally and in an upbeat, service-oriented way.
• And also a variety of TEAM awards….
I'm putting together a guide for this event, since there's a LOT to it and some of our clients are planing to do a "Care with Compassion Academy Awards." Wendy Leebov 215-413-1969; wleebov@quality-patient-experience.,com
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