Agency Culture Happens With or Without Your Input

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)

Agency Culture Happens With or Without Your InputHow important is culture to your organization? I bet you are saying to yourself right now that it’s very important. But how often does the subject of culture come up when you’re going through a significant hospice or home health software installation or upgrade, exploring new product lines or changing agency processes?

Especially in today’s turbulent healthcare market, change often can’t be helped – regardless of the impact on an agency’s culture. But agency leaders must recognize those impacts and lessen them whenever possible.

Treasure Coast Hospice, Stuart, Fla., experienced more than 30% clinical staff turnover during an initiative to wean the agency off paper documentation. Much of the clinical staff had minimal computer skills and turned out to be unwilling to adapt to the changes. “A lot of older nurses just retired,” says CIO Ted Charron. “They didn’t want to go off paper.”

In this case, the agency determined that turnover was an unfortunate by-product of the greater good gained by moving to electronic records.

And how does culture filter through your organization? For Carol Quiring, president and CEO at Saint Luke’s Home Care & Hospice, culture starts in her office. She recognizes that culture is top down, which is why she tries to meet with each employee individually to demonstrate agency culture.

But culture is much more than an agency’s mission or values statement and more than what leaders say. It’s just as much about how leaders act and how they treat staff. Quiring believes in being transparent about agency operations and upcoming initiatives. She has an open door policy (and practices it) and believes in promoting from within.

Regardless of whether you never think about it, obsess over it or something in between, your home health agency has a unique culture. It likely consists of many of the values that you have worked hard to instill in your staff. It’s just as likely to contain several things you’d like to change.

No agency’s culture is a utopia, but it’s important to recognize that your agency does have one and that you and other leaders help set the tone for that culture.

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