Morale boosts don't need to have a big price tag

Some of the best ideas cost nothing

Improving morale of patient access staff is difficult, but it doesn't have to be expensive. "If you care about your staff and their work environment and you are genuine in your praises, morale takes care of itself," says Antionette Anderson, CHAA, CHAM, director of patient access & centralized scheduling at Skaggs Community Health Center in Branson, MO. Here, Anderson shares some of her secrets:

  • Every day, she rounds on patient access staff and the departments they serve.

"It takes about 30 minutes out of my day, but it is well worth it," she says. "I feel that rounding with them shows them you care." During the rounds, she covers these five points:

  • What is working well today?

Staff tell Anderson things like "No one called in sick," "We are fully staffed," "I love our new insurance card scanners, they save so much time," or "IT came down and fixed our printer."

  • Are there any issues or concerns that I can help you resolve today?

Recently, a staff member told Anderson: "Sally really needs some training in scripting for collections, as well as insurance training. She seems to be struggling." Another staff member told her, "Endoscopy keeps calling to see if the patient has arrived. This is very disruptive to our patient flow. Please let them know that we send the patients directly up that have pre-registered and don't owe any money. Only the ones that need to pay their co-pay stop by registration, and we send them right up after we have collected."

  • Do you have the appropriate equipment for doing your job?

If you asked staff what equipment they would like you to give them, you might expect them to ask for the impossible, but Anderson says the requests are surprisingly basic.

"Sometimes their equipment needs are as small as 'We need pens' or 'My laptop won't hold a charge,'" she says. "I get them what they need."

  • Is there someone that should be recognized today for a job well done?
  • Tough questions.

"This covers anything that is out of your control, such as 'I feel that we are underpaid,' 'We need a raise,' or 'We need a bigger office,'" says Anderson. "These are items that take time and need to have others involved in resolving, or cannot be resolved."

Every week, she follows up on the concerns that were voiced during the rounds, and then communicates back to staff to let them know what she has done.

  • When staff tell her one of their co-workers has done a good job, Anderson sends a thank you card to that employee's home.

She gets very specific about why the person is being thanked. For example, she might write, "Susan in the radiology department said that you went out of your way on Monday when a patient needed help with obtaining a ride home," or "Megan, your co-worker really appreciated that you traded shifts with her so she could attend her child's school play."

"By sending the thank you card to their home, it means more to them," she says. "They are proud to show it to their family."

  • When staff reach a goal, she buys the entire department pizza.

A collection goal might be $50,000 per month for a specific department, such as the emergency department, outpatient or inpatient, or $150,000 combined for hospital collections per month.

"I also celebrate reached goals such as 85% preregistration of all scheduled patients, or 95% accuracy, either per individual or per department," says Anderson. "I will also buy lunch for an individual when I know they went above and beyond."

  • She compliments staff on good communication.

Anderson listens as staff interact with patients, and if she likes what she hears, she says so. "I immediately tell them, 'Cathy, I overheard you talking with your patient, you did a great job resolving their problem,' or 'The way you handled that situation was excellent.' I do this in front of other employees."

  • She gets rid of troublemakers in the group.

Anderson keeps an eye out for problem behaviors — turning one employee against another, gossiping, constant complaining, or talking behind a employee's back.

"That really brings the staff down," says Anderson. "Sometimes the troublemakers are good workers, but they drag down the rest of the group."

[For more information, contact:

  • Antionette Anderson, CHAA, CHAM, director of patient access & centralized scheduling, Skaggs Community Health Center, PO Box 650, Branson, MO 65616. Phone: (417) 335-7701. E-mail: AGAnderson@Skaggs.Net.]