How one rehab hospital improves staff morale

Rewards include dinners, free movie tickets

Praise is nice, but it’s likely to make a more lasting impact on staff when they are given a thank-you note or reward for their exceptional service.

Staff will hold on to a written compliment for a long time, says Lauri-Ellen Smith, APR, director of communication and marketing for Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in Jacksonville, FL. And Smith should know. For several years, she has proudly saved a special thank-you card she received from a colleague at Brooks.

Brooks uses the following methods to show employees how much they are appreciated:

- PRIDE cards. The hospital encourages all employees to write a PRIDE (Personal Responsi bility In Delighting Everyone) card for anyone they find doing something extra special. Also, when patients compliment employees, the employees’ managers send them a PRIDE card.

In its patient satisfaction surveys, the hospital has received many positive comments about the hospital and particular employees. "We’ve prided ourselves on working hard to please patients, and it’s not unusual to receive 50 feedback forms with 45 handwritten notes about how someone was very nice to me,’ or I appreciated that this person went out of their way to be nice to my mother when she was having such a difficult time,’" Smith says.

Patient comment cards offered a perfect opportunity to praise the staff and reinforce better customer service, so managers decided to follow up all positive patient comments with a PRIDE card. Smith says, "It entails a lot of work because people will sometimes remember a first name but not a last name, or they don’t remember the department where someone works."

- Service honors. Employees who reach a service milestone, starting with year five and continuing in five-year increments, are treated to a luncheon with their supervisors, senior executives, hospital board members, and the hospital’s chief executive officer. Each employee’s supervisor stands to say a few complimentary words about the employee. The luncheons are held each quarter. Employees honored also receive a service pin with genuine sapphires, diamonds, or other precious stones, depending on length of service.

- Appreciation celebrations. The hospital holds a variety of employee appreciation celebrations each year. One is an employee barbecue, featuring ribs and chicken, during National Rehab Week. Each employee receives a small gift, such as a flashlight or license plate frame. In October, during National Physical Therapy Month, staff are invited to an ice cream social in the rehab gym. Other celebrations include a thank-you dinner and a reunion party for former patients. Staff are invited to the reunion, which typically has a big turnout, Smith says.

- Feedback opportunities. Employees are encouraged to give feedback on any concern, issue, or complaint. The feedback system works through e-mail, voice mail, and an employee suggestion box. Occasionally, administrators seek input on a specific issue by asking staff to respond by e-mail or voice mail to that topic.

- Monthly newsletter. The monthly newsletter for employees, Teamwork, honors all staff achievements in a section titled "Milestones." For example, a recent newsletter mentioned an employee who gave a presentation at a conference and congratulated a case manager for winning a band performance contest at a local cafe. The newsletter also congratulated several new parents and a new grandmother. Employees were named and thanked for their participation in the annual Heart Walk, as well.

The newsletter includes photos of employees who pass service milestones, in five-year increments, and it includes photos of new employees. When an employee dies, the newsletter runs a photo and memorial. Another feature is a spotlight that recognizes a department, group, or employee. The newsletter’s editorial advisory board votes on who will receive that honor each month. "It might be because they’re doing something fun and innovative or creative, or maybe they won a clinical award, or someone could be chairing a special committee," Smith explains.