1. Murray, Kathleen RN, CNA, MSN

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Q What's your best advice on how to improve patient satisfaction scores as quickly as possible?


Patient satisfaction has become the core of evaluating the effectiveness of healthcare delivery. As of July 2007, most hospitals were participating in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS)-a public reporting initiative in which patients complete a patient satisfaction survey, rating their experiences of hospital care and services. Hospitals will be reporting their results to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and effective this year, CMS will begin reporting the results publicly.


With the required reporting on the horizon, it's imperative that you start a unit-based patient satisfaction committee that's staff driven. You'll need to have the committee focus on the nursing questions from your patient satisfaction survey tool that are scoring the lowest. Nurses will need to select and take ownership of a specific question where problem scores are found. Their assignment will be to develop an improvement plan based on best-practice solutions. The staff will need access to the intranet site of the patient satisfaction tool that your organization is utilizing. These sites normally have numerous resources available to assist in action plan development. Your unit will reap the benefits of an upward trend in patient satisfaction scores when your staff is truly engaged in the solutions.


Additionally, it's important that staff is made aware that service disappointments can occur. When these service disappointments transpire, they should be addressed and resolved with a sincere and genuine apology. Resolving patient complaints can be intimidating; therefore, bringing a coworker into the interaction can lend support and add calm to the situation. Colleagues working together to solve problems for patients and families exemplifies teamwork at its best.


Q We have a central budget for staff conference attendance. What are fair criteria to be used to determine if this is an appropriate use of funds?

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Every leader needs to ensure the continued growth of employees through a mutually defined developmental plan as part of their yearly performance evaluation. Be creative with your staff in finding numerous venues for lifelong learning.


Any employee interested in attending a continuing-education program or conference should first discuss it with his or her manager. The expectation of any organization is that every nurse manager will review the request in a cost-conscious, strategically aligned manner. Ask yourself the following questions before approving the request:


* Is the conference related to enhancing the skills and competencies that the nurse uses in his or her current position?


* Will the continuing education build future competencies that support the strategic future needs of the organization?


* Is the education needed for the organization to comply with state or federal regulations?


* Will the education support the mutually agreed-upon personal developmental goals?



If you answer yes to any one of the questions and the cost of the conference or continuing-education session is reasonable, you should follow your organization's approval process.


Managers are key staff advocates for continuing education and vital to creating a culture of professional development that ultimately drives employee engagement.