In January, Springboard HealthCare, a healthcare staffing agency, conducted a survey to benchmark cardiac catheterization lab performance in the areas of revenue, expenses, facility outlook and company culture. The purpose of the survey was to establish an index to detail industry trends, sentiment and growth prospects by cath lab leaders.
In the survey, 61.1 percent of respondents listed “staffing issues” as one of the top three challenges for operating their lab in 2011. If staffing is such a prominent issue in a cath lab, how does it affect the culture? And how important is culture in the cath lab?
With recruitment, orientation, training and team integration, bringing new team members on board is very costly. As a result, focusing on creating the right culture for your lab can have a significant impact on reducing costs. And, with volumes and budgets being the top concerns among cath lab leaders, reducing turnover is something that should be considered.
A closer look revealed that respondents who felt positive about morale attributed that to direct management support. Common sense tells us that a positive environment is a more enjoyable place to work, which plays an integral role in building a culture that embraces staff inclusion. Creating a conducive environment also tends to attract and retain staff who offer not only clinical skills but who also integrate or fit well with the team.
Every day we ask our clients, “What is the tenure of your staff?” (A polite way of asking, what’s your turnover?) Studies have shown that the more tenured the staff, the better the lab generally is with retention. In our survey, we also found that those labs where staff felt they had an open forum to provide input and communicate without fear of repercussions, generally felt positive about the lab morale.
While 86.9 percent of survey takers felt good about morale (which contributes to the culture), it was among this group that cath lab leaders felt the upper level (VP–CEO) support began to fade. The details of why deserve further exploration. We have found that qualified cath lab professionals shy away from management because the demands are so great. In fact, in our 2012 Cath Lab Performance index survey, 27.9 percent of cath lab leaders were unsatisfied with their current positions.
Another factor that contributes to creating a lab’s culture is the dynamic between the physicians and other staff members. We often say lightheartedly that if the docs aren’t happy, nobody’s happy; that is, if the lab runs smoothly then more cases come in and physicians are more likely to have a collegial relationship with leadership as well as staff. Seventy percent of our survey respondents said that the working relationship with their docs is either “exceptional” or “working well.”
Culture is important to building a strong cath lab, but it is just one piece of the overall organization. Culture isn’t something a consultant can bring in or a standard that can be followed. It starts with the right leadership providing vision, values, habits, norms and other factors. Once defined, you can nurture culture in a way that will drive the results you seek.
Mr. Hays is CEO of SpringBoard Healthcare.