The Power of Celebration: A Simple Secret in Improving The Patient Experience

Last week I had the privilege of attending an award ceremony designed to recognize the accomplishments of healthcare organizations for performance on patient experience measures, HCAHPS scores and service innovations. The recipients came from across the spectrum of care settings including acute care, critical access, physician practices, outpatient and home health. I have had the chance to attend a number of events like this in the past and have always been moved by the enthusiasm and excitement generated by this type of recognition. Yet at this event, I was struck by something I may have been missing all along.

Whether a large national event of this type or a recognition event in a single healthcare organization, what I discovered is that there is something significant hiding just beyond our efforts at recognition. Recognition is a powerful tool in organizational settings. It has been shown to bolster engagement of staff, increase satisfaction and even boost motivation. Yet, what I suggest is often missed is taking one more step beyond acknowledgement and recognition. It is a magic opportunity we often fall short of in healthcare, the power of celebration.

I am not talking about hanging a sign on a unit to say congratulations for a performance achievement or even singing happy birthday at monthly staff forums. All these activities are important, but remain the rational part of creating cultures of engagement. One could argue these are celebrations, and while I would not disagree, they seem more often to be a thoughtful acknowledgement of accomplishment. By celebration I also don’t suggest the need for costly or even lavish events, I am talking about the emotional connection we have to our success. Celebration is not a certificate or sign, it is the true expression of appreciation from the heart and shared with colleagues and peers.

So how can you use celebration? It may be the attendance of a senior leader at a unit huddle to express why the service efforts of a staff member had a positive impact on the experience of a patient or family member. It could be bringing the prom or an anniversary or birthday party to a patient’s room. It could be a red carpet welcome in the lobby for a volunteer on her 20 years of service or a thoughtful send off for a long time patient who healed and is now leaving your facility. So how do you know that you are celebrating versus recognizing? You feel it on the inside.  Versus a virtual handshake, it is a virtual hug. Recognition is something you do; it is rational and thoughtful. Celebration is something you experience; it is emotional and heart-felt.

In a work environment where stress can run high and emotion sits just below (and at times above) the surface in every encounter, by moving beyond recognition (not leaving it behind) and ensuring true celebration, we intentionally provide an experience for our team, our patients, our families and our communities. The reality is they are having an experience whether we design one or not. In celebration we create lasting memories, the very essence of experience itself – that which is remembered. In doing so we unleash the potential of our people, acknowledge the humanity of our patients and allow the true purpose and passion in our work to emerge. Through celebration we enliven and enrich our organizations and we create new opportunities to positively impact the patient experience.

At The Beryl Institute we work tirelessly to ensure we celebrate the amazing work taking place in healthcare every day. I invite you to share your story. How do use celebration to enliven the patient experience in your organization?

Jason A. Wolf
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

One thought on “The Power of Celebration: A Simple Secret in Improving The Patient Experience

  1. I remembered several years ago, a friend of mine had cancer and a major operation. He was very depressed during his hospitalization because nearly everyday, someone passed away. However, I am sure every now and then, there are patients who are discharged from the ward too. Reflecting back, think it will be a wonderful idea if someone tells us that he or she will be discharged from hospital and we go there to celebrate with the family members and friends. I am sure it will bring much cheer to the other patients. It also means that hopefully one day they will be discharged too!

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