Service Culture Transformation at Hamilton Health Sciences

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Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), a large multi-site urban teaching hospital has recently completed a successful, innovative project designed not only to ensure a technically and interpersonally skilled group of customer focused support workers (Environmental Aides and Porters), but also to attract young people to health-care careers. This includes, for some, temporary or permanent positions with the Customer Support Services Department through an innovative partnership with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).

For employees, the journey began in fall, 2003, as Customer Support Services embarked upon an ambitious “Service Culture Transformation”. This unique initiative was designed to enhance our employees’ ability to provide skilled, customer focused support to the organization. Key to this initiative was the following: Designing And Providing a 3-Day Workshop For All Support Staff And Leaders Focusing On Communication, Customer Service And Problem Solving.

To date almost 400 staff and 15 leaders have attended this program. Evaluation comments have been extremely positive and include comments like:

“This class will make me a better personÑat home and at work”

“Thank you for this. I thought this would be boring but it was greatÑfun and I learned so much that will help me on the job!”

“It was great, but why are just EAs and porters attending? The nurses need this too!”

Developing and providing a one day technical skills tune up for staff

Part of our Service Culture Transformation improvement initiative involved redesigning roles within Customer Support Services. “Job creep” over the years resulted in more and more tasks being added to the Environmental Aide role. Consequently, they were spending increasing amounts of time on such tasks as portering patients to off unit tests and less time on their primary role – cleaning. The role was redesigned. All portering was assumed by the porters, who had previously moved supplies and equipment, but rarely moved patients. Jobs were not lost as a result of this redesign, but some staff moved from EA to porter roles. In order to address the learning needs of those changing jobs and to ensure that all staff had the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their duties safely and effectively, all EAs and porters attended a one-day “Summer Skills Tune Up” offered between July 12, 2004-September 12, 2005.

Almost 400 staff completed the program. Evaluation comments were very positive, even on the part of staff that was not changing positions.

Developing and instituting a preceptor program for staff

The Preceptorship Program in Customer Support Services is used to orient new Environmental Aides (EAs) and porters. The risk of not formalizing a structured, unit-based supplement to General Hospital and Departmental Technical Skills Orientation is a poorly prepared group of workers who will fail to adequately appreciate and support the needs of clinical areas and ultimately lose pride and motivation on the job, potentially leading to turnover or an ineffective workforce. These positions, which are often on-call initially, involve a great deal of autonomous work in a variety of fast paced, high-pressure environments. Adequate preparation is the key to retention, job satisfaction and effectiveness in the role.

Students in the “Healthcare Support Services Program” proudly display their certificates of completion in June, 2004.

Healthcare Support Services Program

The Healthcare Support Services program is a cooperative venture between the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board and Hamilton Health Sciences. This innovative program is taught on site at Hamilton Health Sciences. Senior high school students have the opportunity to earn high school credits while spending the entire semester in a health-care setting. A classroom component focuses on a variety of relevant topics including medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, service excellence, professionalism, communication and infection control. Students use authentic equipment in a skills lab to learn a variety of clinical and Customer Support Services Skills (cleaning and portering). In the practical component of the course, students are placed with and coached by hospital EAs and porters. Students work alongside Customer Support Services staff in a variety of clinical areas. For some students this type of work represents a career destination. Several have been hired by Hamilton Health Sciences following their placements. Others have opted to continue their education, many in the health-care field.

As a result of this yearlong improvement initiative our staff and leaders have flourished. Hamilton Health Sciences has a technically and interpersonally skilled group of customer focused support workers (Environmental Aides and Porters), who have embraced the roles of coach to students and preceptor for peers. In addition, they have had the privilege of working with a group of young people and supporting their learning placements in a busy, demanding health-care environment. For many students, this helped bring their future into focus. Several are now HHS employees and even more plan to return to HHS after they complete their education. The entire organization has watched our Service Culture Transformation unfold. We are proud that Customer Support Services is getting the recognition it deserves – from customers in our hospital community and from parents and students as we work together to “do a good job better”.