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Three Steps to a Culture of Kindness and Compassion

December 17, 2015


Great article this week in FierceHealthcare. The President and CEO of a California health system argues that compassion and kindness are not only in line with a hospital’s mission, but have a positive impact on the bottom line. Click here for the article.

"Compassion and kindness aren't expensive, but the yield is priceless," Lloyd H. Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health, a California-based non-profit healthcare system, told Forbes. Hospitals must hold all members of the organization accountable and hold them to high standards of kindness and compassion, Dean said. Furthermore, he said, leaders must make caregivers and frontline workers feel valued and respected so they can provide care for others in the best way possible. 454983761

Dean recounted a story about a cancer patient undergoing cancer treatment, who wrote a letter of thanks after a Dignity housekeeper encouraged her and shared her own battle with cancer. "That's what the world needs to be more about," he told Asghar. "People would live longer, and they would be more prosperous. Society would be better."

This story reminds me of our guest blog by Rhonda Larimore about how a few moments of time by an environmental service worker can impact the life of a sick kid.

Dignity health does a few things other hospitals can learn from:

  • Senior leaders participate in an hour of rounds each morning with patients and staff, followed by discussions about what staff need to do their job well
  • Staff can take care of a patient's pet at home so the patient won't worry during recovery
  • Staff never leave a terminal patient to die alone

These are efforts that are consistent with a compassionate approach to caring for patients, but how do you “hold all members of the organization accountable and hold them to high standards of kindness and compassion” as Dean says? How do you “operationalize” this concept?

  1. Define the specific behavioral competencies that you want to see displayed from leaders down to front line staff.
  2. Build those competencies into the healthcare hiring system – how do you evaluate these competencies?
  3. Build these same competencies into your performance management system.

Dignity Health values these behaviors. The senior leadership team embraces them. You can’t “hope” that you can build a similar team. Don’t leave it to chance. Take a deliberate approach to building this sort of culture.

How Culture Drives or Hinders Hospital Outcomes


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.