Katherine Pace, Bogren, Richard C. | 11/2/2006 11:46:53 PM
News Release Distributed 11/02/06
SHREVEPORT – Linda Hatcher was looking for a way to boost morale at the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. She found it through collaboration with the LSU AgCenter.
Hatcher, assistant coordinator in Human Resource Management Staff Training and Development, said the Health Sciences Center’s department administrators had asked its training and development staff to address ethical issues in the hospital and medical complex.
"It’s such a big place," Hatcher said. "We do a noble thing here – some of the best health care in the region. But hospital staff needed a way to communicate and work together as a team to feel more effectively connected to that mission. They needed a way to take pride in their good work."
As she was driving in her community, Hatcher said, she saw signs at schools about character education. When she investigated what the signs signified, Hatcher learned about the Character Counts! program the LSU AgCenter provides to schools throughout Louisiana. Further inquiries led Hatcher to Katherine Pace, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Caddo Parish.
Pace said Character Counts! is a national program for character education in schools, but youth development faculty members in the LSU AgCenter have developed a similar program covering workplace ethics.
Capitalizing on those programs, Pace enlisted the help of Johnny Arceneaux and Sarah Williams in the LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development department in Baton Rouge to develop a workplace ethics program for LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport.
The result was an ethics training program that encompasses the entire 3,000-person workforce at LSU hospital.
Hospital administrators agreed to adopt the program because of its merit and because of the opportunity for collaboration between two components of the LSU System, which made the cost right. The LSU AgCenter provided the program, and the Health Sciences Center provided the materials and allowed each employee time off from work to participate.
To demonstrate its support and top-down modeling, every member of hospital’s administration attended one of the sessions.
"Hospital leadership recognized the value of the workplace ethics program as a tool to reinforce the values and behaviors we want our staff to display," said hospital administrator Joe Miciotto. "The character traits discussed in the program reinforce our mission of providing quality patient care."
Hatcher scheduled 3,000 employees in 75 sessions. Because the program is mandatory for everyone the hospital employs, sessions were offered during working hours – including the night shift, since a hospital operates around the clock.
The LSU AgCenter specialists took the workplace ethics curriculum they had in place and modified it through a needs assessment with the hospital department directors to meet the hospital’s needs, Pace said. They developed hospital-specific examples and fine-tuned the program to apply to hospital settings.
During the needs assessment, the LSU AgCenter team discovered the major concerns in the hospital were caring, trustworthiness and respect. So they developed their presentation around those aspects of character.
In particular, hospital administrators wanted their employees to understand the "domino effect" of how one person’s actions affect many others. This was emphasized in a skit that depicted how one person being late snowballed into problems for many people, including patients and other employees.
"It was great. I enjoyed it," said Sharon Upton, a supervisor in radiology, following a session in mid-October. "It was a reality check."
The team plans to conduct a second series of training with the first-line supervisors in early 2007 to reinforce using the program with the staff, Hatcher said. Department directors will evaluate the overall program later in the spring.
The training began in September for supervisors and continued in October for other employees. The team plans to conduct an evaluation in the winter.
Under the program, Pace or one of her colleagues conduct two-hour sessions for 50 Health Sciences Center employees at a time. By the end of the year, they will have presented the program to 3,000 people.
"We can choose our options and choose what to do," Pace told a class in mid-October. "You can’t choose the consequences of making your choice.
"Character is the way we act," she said. "Nobody can choose it for us. Ethics is the way we should act. If we can all exhibit the same characteristics, we’ll have a better workplace. What we think of others is portrayed by how we treat them."
The three LSU AgCenter faculty members originally conducted the needs assessment at the Health Sciences Center in May 2006.
"From that, we developed the program we’re implementing hospital-wide," Pace said.
The program features small-group discussions and includes employees from all hospital departments.
"Our goal is to help the employees understand that what they do really does matter," Pace said. The program emphasizes teamwork and mutual appreciation for the work the employees do.
"It was dynamic," Vincent Harris, an administrative coordinator, said of the session he attended. He called it "very thorough in paying attention to the particulars in workplace ethics.
"I didn’t know what to expect," Harris said. "I thought it would be someone talking about policies."
Harris said he was particularly impressed by the portion of the program that included role playing.
"We were able to see a situation how one employee affected a patient and coworkers," Harris said.
Harris said the way the program was conducted made him less apprehensive, less inclined to keep to himself and more open to speaking with others. "Immediately, I started to speak to people I was afraid to speak to before," he said.
Hatcher also said she is pleased with the way the character education program is going.
"It’s such a wonderful mix of so many different people and departments," Hatcher said of the hospital’s participants who come to the workplace ethics sessions.
Hatcher also is the instructor of the Project CARE lab, a workplace education program for all LSU Health Sciences Center employees. It offers computer tutorials and one-on-one assistance for learning about software applications as well as interpersonal skills such as communication and conflict resolution.
"A year ago, we were looking for ethics and morale help," she said. "We don’t think you need to learn ethics, but learn how to interact with coworkers as well as with patients and take pride in the diverse and amazing team you are a part of."
Hospital administrators believe the program has been a tremendous success.
"Our intent it to integrate the behaviors and expectations outlined in this program into everyday operations," said Miciotto. "Workplace ethics reinforces our commitment to provide the best possible service to our patients, visitors and staff, identifying the LSU HSC community as people who care.
"We’re pleased to be a pilot for this program where two LSU agencies combined efforts so effectively," he said.
To build on this foundation, the character traits emphasized during the workplace ethics program will be incorporated into all new employee orientation at the Health Sciences Center and its campus education day, which is mandatory for all employees once a year, Pace said.
"This will communicate or remind all hospital employees of the standard – to be people of good character who display trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship," Pace said.