Message From The Chair: How We Talk to Each Other Matters

April 30, 2015 by

James NataroThose of you who have been in or through the NICU over the last four months or so may have noticed the new program the NICU staff calls “Be Respectful”. This program was the result of a “Microsystem Improvement” effort nucleated within the NICU. A group of individuals representing all NICU stakeholders met weekly to identify ways to improve their work experience. Before the new year holidays they distributed a questionnaire to identify opportunities for improvement. The results were striking. By far, the most common dissatisfier recognized by the staff was their experience of occasional disrespectful communication in the workplace.

The group set about to develop a plan-do-study-act cycle to address disrespectful communication. They came up with the Be Respectful program, the essence of which comprises three elements. First, NICU leadership would commit to the already recognized accountability structure for disrespectful and unprofessional behavior. Second, they would initiate a simple mechanism for anyone in the NICU to request a private conversation with someone with whom they had a difficult encounter. Third, the Children’s Hospital would commit to a series of sessions to learn the best practices of communication in the workplace. These included the need to be mindful of one’s own perspective in any difficult encounter: sometimes we interpret slight when none in intended. The Be Respectful program is now underway, and its effectiveness will be tracked by repeating the survey this summer. The group is hoping to see significant improvement in the questions pertaining to communication.

The NICU program is exemplary in a number of ways. First, it represents the NICU helping itself – the problems in need of redress were identified by the staff and the solutions were developed by the staff. This represents empowerment at the grassroots level, where medical and nursing care occur. As important, the group has identified something very basic to how we deal with each other, and they have called attention to a fundamental truth in the workplace: satisfaction is more about people than it is about place. Working hard to fine tune inter-professional interaction is an endeavor that will never be a waste of time.

I am delighted to see this project take shape and will closely follow its results. The program offers important examples for our whole enterprise.

Filed Under: Features

Tags: ,