Nancy Steiger, Partner, CEO Advisory Network
Famed poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.”
As healthcare leaders, so often when faced with a problem, we look for a tangible reason why something is broken or not working, but an intangible – like experience – can be the culprit and the solution. And the realization that experience is the key to the problem and the solution sometimes takes a little personal perspective.
Like many chief executives, each time I started my CEO role there were a myriad of challenges facing the organization. I did my assessments and put together my priority list – which was long and comprehensive. Somewhere near the bottom was “The Cafeteria.”
There were plenty of telltale signs the cafeteria was not a place of respite and community – staff would leave campus for lunch or they would pack their own food and bring it to work. Patient feedback about food was terrible; consistently.
It was clear food had NOT been a priority at the hospital.
But as they say, “perspective is everything…” especially when it hits close to home. In my second year as CEO I was hospitalized for 11 days. I was fed on my 10th day and the very first meal I was served was…
...you won’t believe this… soggy, microwaved sweet and sour chicken with burnt rice and cold previously frozen broccoli.…
Need I say more?
But what could I expect, the kitchen staff experience was one of challenge after challenge – with tired equipment, access to poor quality food and ingredients and basically no training in how to present food in an attractive way.
I always say, the first bite is with your eyes.
That singular personal experience as a patient suddenly changed everything for me. I once believed we didn’t have the money to invest in our food services department, but after a 11 days in our hospital, I knew we couldn’t afford not to improve the experience. After all, nutrition and food play a vital role in healing.
There are some quick steps you can take right now to improve patient, customer and employee experiences.
When it came to fixing the food services challenge at my hospital, we followed these basic four steps. We knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight and we needed to start improving the experience, immediately.
My COO and I realized the answer to our problem was not finding a way around it, but through it.
And we knew we needed help.
We wanted the entire experience to be the best experience – for everyone! And with each passing month, it did!
Most importantly, patient satisfaction began to rise, employees stopped leaving campus for lunch and the cafeteria became a focal point for gathering during meal and non-mealtimes.
Mr. Wilde taught me one of the important lessons I’ve ever learned:
You must give a little of yourself if you want to gain a lot.
I’m convinced my hospital stay was the best thing that could have happened for me, our patients, visitors and staff. Without it, I can’t imagine where we would still be today.
A proven executive leader, Nancy Steiger has more than 35 years leading healthcare organizations to success through leadership development, operational improvement and achieving clinical quality excellence at each of her facilities. To contact Nancy, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org