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Nurse Zone

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

November 14, 2013 - Individual nurses may be motivated by different things, but most will agree that a supportive work environment and opportunities for professional growth can go a long way toward improving job satisfaction. And there are a few hospitals that seem to have discovered the right formula for creating a great place to work.

Modern Healthcare recently named more than 30 hospitals among the 100 Best Places to Work in Healthcare for 2013, with the rest comprised of suppliers, payers and other types of providers, such as physician practices and outpatient centers. Listed hospitals value their team members and how they care for patients.

“The patient is our priority,” said Vicki Branstetter, RN, director of clinical services for physician practice management at 75th ranked Stillwater Medical Center in Stillwater, Okla. “We get what we need to provide the best care we can to the patients. I love that.”

The ability to provide excellent patient care and put the patient first drives employee satisfaction at many of the Best-ranked hospitals. 

“The focus on patients and families is the core of what we do,” said Leah Carpenter, RN, MPA, CEO of Memorial Hospital Mirimar in Mirimar, Fla., part of 37th-ranked Memorial Healthcare System, the second largest hospital employer on the list, with 10,732 staff members. “It’s part of our culture and the core of who we are.”

Claudia Burchett, RN, BSN, MBA, FACHE, NEA-BC, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at 17th-ranked Southern Ohio Medical Center, a Magnet-designated hospital in Portsmouth, Ohio, also credits the hospital’s culture, which includes staff in decision-making, with helping it achieve the recognition. 

“We are focused on five strategic values: safety, quality, service, relationships and performance,” Burchett said. “We try to make every decision based on what is best for the patients.”

For its annual rankings, Modern Healthcare asks employers about company policies, benefits and demographics, and queries staff members about leadership, culture, relationships, training, the work environment, compensation and overall satisfaction. 

A friendly, supportive culture 

Hospitals on the 2013 Best Places to Work in Healthcare list range in size from St. Luke's Lakeside Hospital in The Woodlands, Texas, with 112 employees to Bon Secours Virginia in Richmond with 12,338 employees. Most, however, are community hospitals that fall in the middle of the range. That might give them a boost on friendliness of the work environment. 

“People have the ability to know each other, know about each other, so there is a lot of collaboration,” said Carol Shelton, director of human resources at 3rd-ranked Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque, N.M. “We often hear from them that it’s a family.”

Jaymie Heard, RN, DNP, nurse manager for telemetry, med-surg and intensive care at 53rd-ranked King's Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, Miss., echoed that thought. 

“We have a close family and Christian atmosphere,” Heard said. “Patients and staff are treated like No. 1 at all times.”

People at King’s Daughters say hello when passing in the hall and smile. Carpenter also reported that friendliness and greeting each other are common at Memorial. The same is true at many other Best-ranked hospitals.

“We are embraced for who we are, different personalities, different cultures,” Branstetter said. “The teamwork here is amazing. We are all equal partners in providing patient care.”

Collegial relationships were a common theme among the Best Places to Work. 

“It’s collaborative in everything we do,” Carpenter said. 

Heard called the nurse–physician relationships at King’s Daughters some of the best among the places he has worked. 

“Physicians appreciate staff, nurses and technicians,” Heard said. 

Opportunities for growth 

Best Places to Work support staff development. Heard earned a master’s and doctorate degree while working at King’s Daughters. 

“The chief nursing officer and CEO gave me the opportunity for personal and professional growth,” Heard said. He added that he has those degrees now “because of them pushing me to want to be a better nurse.”

Due to its rural location, Burchett said, Southern Ohio works to grow its own nurses. The hospital provides tuition assistance and offers a scholarship program for staff members’ children or spouses wanting to go to school for nursing or another in-demand profession.

Stillwater Medical offers tuition reimbursement and pays for certification testing. 

“We’re always current and know the latest in patient care and the trends,” Branstetter said “We do not stay stagnant here.”

Lovelace Women’s offers a loan forgiveness program for nurses. It helps employees develop a career path and provides a leadership program to help immediate supervisors run a consistent operation and engage employees. 

Benefits associated with being the best 

The best hospitals to work at reap the benefits of easier recruitment and improved retention. They offer competitive compensation packages and recognize employees’ accomplishments. 

The CEO at King’s Daughters celebrates birthdays with employees, and the chief nursing officer values nurses’ opinions. Several have worked at the hospital for 40 years. And, Heard said, the hospital frequently has a waiting list of nurses wanting to work there.

Lovelace Women’s holds barbeques and pumpkin carving contests, among other events. 

“[At Memorial], we encourage work–life balance, so when they come here they do their best,” Carpenter said. 

Branstetter reported always having more than one qualified applicant for open positions. 

“People want to work at Stillwater Medical Center,” Branstetter added. “We have a strong reputation in the community.”

The benefits of satisfied employees reach beyond recruitment, as well. 

“There is a direct correlation between patient satisfaction and employee satisfaction,” Shelton said. “When you have people delighted to be doing what they are doing, excited about giving the best level of care they can render, your customers are going to be very happy.”

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