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HR Lessons: How Service Worker Selection Affects the Patient Experience.

July 21, 2011
Have you ever watched the TV show Scrubs?  “The Janitor” is a funny character, but you probably don’t want him around when you are having a baby!   A colleague’s wife recently had a child.  Mom and baby are doing well.  I asked him about their hospital experience (Yes, I said “congratulations,” first).  Now keep in mind that this is not your run of the mill community hospital, it’s a top women’s hospital, renowned for its childbirth services.

Despite first rate facilities, physicians, and a kind, knowledgeable nurse, the experience was less than ideal because of The Janitor.   Early in the morning, just after delivery, this young man came into the room to clean.  Didn’t say hello or ask if it were a good time, just set about his work.  The husband explained that he and his wife had had a long and difficult night and could he come back later?  The Janitor was not pleased and made it clear by his body language, leaving the room in a huff.  Later in the day, when everyone was feeling better the husband asked someone if they could get the room cleaned.

Guess who comes back?  The Janitor was heard to tell a nurse just outside the room how he “hates” it when patients page him to drop everything and clean their room.  He sulked into the room, gave it a cursory cleaning and left.  Again – not a word to the joyous mom and dad (who was now a bit less joyous).

This behavior is wrong on a number of levels, and my colleague’s position reminded me that it’s not just because of the importance of patient satisfaction under the HCAHPS program.  He sees himself as consumer.  The cost of a delivery, depending on several variables, is estimated at between $9,000 and $25,000.  Even with good health insurance, he may have out-of-pocket expenses of up to $3,000.   He reminded me that he wouldn’t accept that level of service, for that amount of money, anywhere else and he’ll think twice about using that hospital for their next child.

What we can learn:

    1. Patients are, finally, beginning to see themselves as consumers of healthcare services and expectations are changing.

    1. Imagine how many new fathers the Janitor has irritated in his time at this hospital?

    1. Some hospitals, finally learning from other industries, have taken a step in the right direction by implementing “a test” of some sort.  We know that’s not enough.  We need to implement a comprehensive hiring process – not just a tool. What about the application process, the phone screen, the interview, the quality of the supervisor?   Is the “tool” having a real, sustainable impact on turnover, patient satisfaction scores and your culture?

    1. Every hiring decision we make impacts our ability to take care of patients, and to fulfill our mission, from the CEO down to The Janitor.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.