Two national speakers: Rich soil here

Patient Experience is all about the little things
Dec. 2, 2015

Two nationally distinguished speakers who aim to motivate health care workers to improve the patient experience spoke to directors and managers recently at Memorial Hospital.

Though Nancy Radcliff and Liz Jazwiec could not be more different in their delivery, they both had similar messages: Change is a constant. Little things matter. Hire the right people.

Radcliff, who works for the Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Mich., spent a morning traveling the halls of Memorial Hospital Central and Memorial Hospital North as a secret shopper.  She found that most employees enjoy working here, that nurses are being required to adopt a new dress code policy and that employees have a clear sense of the mission, even if people can’t quote it verbatim.
“You have rich soil here. I would work here,’’ Radcliff said of Memorial. “Have you worked other places where people hate each other?’’
Radcliff gave a special shout-out to Dubrazka Vuckovic, who has worked in housekeeping for 14 years at Memorial.

“You have a gem here,’’ she said. “Do you know Dubrazka?’’

“I talked to Dubrazka, and she said, ‘I love it here. You know what, it gets better every year.’ I’ve never had that said to me,‘’ Radcliff said. “I asked her ‘Why do you like it here?’  And she said: ‘I like it because I get to work with such great people, and I like to clean.’ ’’
Radcliff said after a few hours at Memorial, she had the sense that it was a “welcoming place,’’ where most employees – but no physicians – greeted her as she traversed the halls.

On Friday, managers and directors were treated to a morning session with Jazwiec, a nursing professional for more than 30 years who now works as a speaker, author and strategist. Jazwiec uses humor – and raw honesty – to capture the conscience of health care providers. She is a master at mixing invectives with kindness to reach audiences.

“I am fatally blunt,’’ she said. “I am never ever shy to offer my opinion.’’

She freely admitted that as a former emergency room nurse, her nursing attitude once was: “I’m here to save your ass, not kiss it.’’

But, she said, “I’m reformed. I’m born again.’’

She told how she helped raise service scores at Chicago’s Holy Cross Hospital from the 5th percentile to the 99th percentile  in just a few years. To obtain excellence, she said, “resist the urge to compare’’ and stop “looking for reasons why we can’t be the best.’’
She rattled off a bunch of excuses that health care workers make – often coveting what the competitor may have when compared with their own situation.

“Oh, yeah,’’ she said, citing an excuse, “They’re better because they work in the Taj Mahal. Their patients come in happy.’’
She urged employees to examine their behavior and make a choice, not to be good, but great.

“Marcus Buckingham (a motivational speaker) says happy people don’t compare themselves to others,’’ she said. “You either practice excellence or you don’t. Excellence is excellence.’’

Still, she said, when leaders at Holy Cross put pressure on her to improve service scores, she was somewhat resistant.

“The main reason was, I didn’t know how to go to a group of people and ask them to do one more thing. I didn’t,’’ she said.

But she came to learn that “focusing on service does not make the job more difficult, it makes it more rewarding. It is no surprise that employee satisfaction and patient satisfaction go hand in hand. If we engage our strong performers, they will be satisfied if we link them to work that makes a difference.’’

Jazwiec said that doesn’t mean employees need some grand project to improve the patient experience. Little things – simple acts of kindness – can make all the difference.

She spoke of the time she was in the ICU with her mother. As she twisted the cap off a bottle of soda, the nurse left the room and returned with a tall Styrofoam cup of ice.

“I thought you might like this for your Diet Coke,’’ the nurse told her.

And then Jacwiec launched into the notion of how little things are so big.

“When you feel heroic, it’s amazing what you can achieve,’’ she said. “My definition of a hero is that you have been remembered for something that you have done — for the rest of your lives. A person remembers you because you made a difference. We never think that it is the small things and it always is. ‘Wow’ is not big, but it is personal,’’ she said.

During her three hours with Memorial staff, Jazwiec was full of words of wisdom.

  • Negativity needs an audience
  • We promote what we permit
  • In life, fun is mandatory

She said she’s told the story of the nurse who brought her a Styrofoam cup of ice to 150,000 people.

“She made a difference to me. I don’t think that nurse drove home that day feeling like a hero. … We in health care will never know how far our reach goes,’’ she said. “We can’t wait for outside validation. We have to know, in ourselves, that our work has meaning.’’
The two speakers were indeed inspirational. Feedback received by Robin Rogers, director of the Office of Patient Experience at Memorial, was enormously positive. Rogers and a team of employees helped organize the events.

Christy Mitchell, assistant director of environmental services at Memorial Hospital North, was invited to hear the talk by Jazwiec.
“My pen probably ran out of ink,’’ Mitchell said. “If you didn’t walk away from that without a nugget, you’re in the wrong field. I hope Memorial continues with this kind of teaching.’’

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.