SWAN Newsletter #3

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Welcome to the latest issue of SWAN – Star Wards Action Network. The highlight of this fortnight was a conference in Dublin about refocusing, which its creator Nick Bowles describes as: “a method to develop practice and manage change in clinical or social care settings, with a sound “work strain” evidence base and robust evaluative elements.” Introducing a refocusing approach has had incredible and apparently sustainable impact on the acute wards using it. See: http://www.brad.ac.uk/admin/pr/February2002/refocusing.htm 

Customer Service Inspiration, courtesy of Phil Dourado

John Tschohl, on the need to encourage all staff to challenge and refresh your existing practices to weed out ones that make no sense for the customer:

“Eliminate ridiculous policies and procedures that discourage customers. Continental Airlines recently lost my son, Matthew, as a customer because of a policy that makes no sense. Matthew asked a friend to ship his dog from Texas to Minnesota. Of course, Matthew said he would pay. Continental’s representatives, however, said only the person dropping off the dog could pay the shipping charges”. It doesn’t have to be like that. “Commerce Bank is so concerned about providing good service, that it pays its employees $50 for each ridiculous policy they identify for demolition.”

News from trusts

Following on from last time’s ideas in action about ward libraries, Ian Trodden told me about how the ‘books on prescription’ idea is operated at their hospital. They’ve got strong links with local libraries who use a mobile library and patients and staff can order the books they want. The last time I saw a mobile library was about 40 years ago, but like so many great ideas, it’s something that has been around a long time and just needs dusting down a bit and wheeling smartly out.

Ideas in action

#5 Domestic staff involved with patients

A simple idea which doesn’t need any additional explanation, but perhaps just a bit of defending. When wards, and domestics, are under so much pressure, does it make sense to ‘divert’ domestics’ time away from their core task? We’d say: “Absolutely.” And if their core task is more broadly defined as creating a safe and welcoming environment for patients, visitors and staff, then talking with patients can be seen as an integral part of their role. Of course domestics do already chat with patients and patients have been known to say that the person they felt most supported by was the domestic. But making this a slightly more formalised or officially sanctioned and validated aspect of their work would make it a more routine happening, and place domestics within the support structure of staff who provide direct care for patients.

If talking with patients is an expectation for staff, what message is being given about domestics (who will often be from ethnic minorities) if they are the one group outside of this practice?

#6 Hospital non-medical staff involved

Staff from other departments (eg catering, admin, maintenance, management) in direct patient could spend one of their 37 or so hours a week visiting a ward, to share a skill, hobby, experience or just to schmooze with patients. Even if only 10 or 20 staff across the hospital were involved, that would generate a valuable number of patient engagement hours. The benefits would be felt as much by staff as by patients, as this would contextualise as well as vary their work. Arguably it’s pretty essential for all staff to have direct service user contact in any organisation that is ‘customer-centred’.

Best of luck!