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Building a staircase to effective staff communication

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By: By Melissa Jeremiah, RN, CHCE

When any agency asks their employees to complete an employee engagement survey they are likely to see communication at the top of the list of weaknesses. On the last employee engagement survey performed by our agency, 47% of the persons who responded made a comment regarding communication as a weakness. The most profound comment was, “I think we would all benefit from listening to one another.” It’s frustrating for home care and hospice leaders when you feel you are doing a good job communicating but your subordinates have another view of your ability to effectively communicate.

It’s also frustrating when a state or federal survey takes place, and you feel that you have effectively communicated an issue to your staff only to have it cited. After our last survey I was feeling dejected and was told by someone I greatly respect to not let perfect be the enemy of good. I took this to heart and felt it was a perspective I could run with and share with my staff. But when I shared it, I discovered this was yet another communication issue. Staff members took this to mean I was expecting everyone to be perfect, and that it gave them a reason to make mistakes without my becoming upset. So the secret to communication continued to elude me.

Then it hit me. I was in our medical records area and found a quote that had been written by one of our staff: “Focus on the step in front of you and not the whole staircase.” The more I thought about this, the more I realized that it explained our communication breakdown. My staff was looking only at the step in front of them and going up the staircase in faith, knowing the steps would be there. However, as the administrator, I have to look at the entire staircase and ensure not only that the staircase exists for my staff to climb, but also that it’s structurally sound as they ascend upward to the landing.

Now my goal is that when I speak with my staff, I allow them the opportunity to ask questions about why we must do something and to provide input about whether there is another way to go about building the staircase.

Melissa Jeremiah is director of operations/administrator at Hoosier Uplands Home Health Care and Hospice in Mitchell, Indiana.

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