Archive October 2017 XVIII, No. 10

Staffing: How We Built a Positive Workplace Culture

It takes a total team effort to turn around a toxic environment.

Sherri Jones

Sherri Jones, MS, MBA, RDN, LDN, FAND


perioperative crew at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT The perioperative crew at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center quickly realized a happy staff translates into happy patients.

When our surgery center staff grumbled more than they grinned and turmoil led to turnover, we examined our workplace culture. We launched a program designed to boost staff morale and stem the tide of valuable staff members looking for work elsewhere. Here are the program's key elements that made our staff realize they had the power to make the changes they wanted to see happen.

1Air the grievances
Creating a cultural identity can seem like an amorphous task that is potentially boundless in scope. Where to begin? Establish a baseline of your workplace culture by having every member of your staff complete a brief survey designed to reveal their thoughts on different aspects of their day-to-day experiences ( For example, our survey asked employees to let us know if they agreed with statements like these:

  • The work environment is pleasant, clean and organized.
  • Nurses, physicians and other staff members work as a high-functioning team.
  • Leaders support professional development.
  • There are an adequate number of experienced staff to care for patients.

Determine which questions scored the lowest and focus your initial efforts on addressing those issues. For us, that meant assuring staff members that managers welcome their ideas for process improvement and that we'll implement those suggestions that make good sense.

2Create a behavioral charter
Put down in writing the expectations you and your staff have for how everyone in the facility must act on a daily basis. Gather staff members in a meeting room to discuss what they believe are the root causes of the issues that matter most to them. Involve representatives from every position within your facility and invite individuals who are known to give their fair and honest opinions of what really goes on away from the watchful eyes of management. Organize the trends staff members share into common themes and create focus groups to discuss the issues and possible solutions. We had groups discuss ways to optimize the surgical team's interactions with anesthesia providers and how to best standardize and document clinical performances, among other hot-button topics.

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