Imagining the Ideal Organization in Healthcare- Part III: Ten More Attributes

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By Jim Murphy and Beth Boynton

Beginning what seems to be a series, we asked earlier this summer “What would the ideal organization to work for look like in healthcare?”   We gave six answers, based on an article in the June Harvard Business Review.  In a Part II, we added twelve more attributes from an earlier HBR blog post.

Here is another list! A blogger with an HR background, Peggy Castellano at, offers identifies the “top 10 characteristics of a great place to work” as follows, with our comments on application to healthcare:

1.  Being an employee champion, offering fairness in all ways

In healthcare, this means balancing the interests of doctors, nurses and other staff and providing a work environment that is free of bullying, respectful of difference, and ensuring enough staff to provide professional care at a high standard.  Administrative leaders must seek to understand the complexity of providing medical and nursing care so that efforts to support the work are respectful and helpful.

 2. Promoting continuous learning and development at all levels

In healthcare, there needs to be ongoing learning not just on the required training to meet regulations and  technical and clinical skills,  but also on so-called “soft skills” such as leadership and communication.  Progressive healthcare organizations will create opportunities to practice, learn, improve, celebrate, practice and will include input from staff about what kind of training would be helpful in serving the organizational mission.  Learning Medical Improv holds huge promise for developing the “soft skills” that individuals, teams, and organizations need to provide safe care, create positive workplace cultures, provide optimal patient care, and work in alignment with the mission and within financial limitations.

3.  Having strong values and ethics

 In healthcare, there is a strong tradition of medical ethics and values  ever since Hippocrates, but given the current influence of financial factors there is a definite need for re-emphasizing these as core principles.  The first priority must be care and it must be consistent, clear, and true.  Whether for profit or not for profit,  financial limitations should be transparent.

4.   Celebrating diversity in all respects

In healthcare, just as the patient population has become increasingly diverse, so to the workforce needs to be diverse and sensitive to diversity.   The healthcare system is truly a ‘melting pot’ of difference with age, gender, profession, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.  In addition, recognizing individual strengths,  preferences and limitations regarding work schedules and job matches, while maintaining and enforcing clear expectations that ensure organizational operations and excellence in care.

5. Having visionary leaders

In healthcare, the complexity of systems and issues and the constancy of change certainly makes visionary leadership necessary and many such leaders have been identified (one even in this blog), though in some cases the attribution may be more hype than reality.

6. Having a fully engaged workforce

In healthcare, patient engagement” has become one of the trendiest catchphrases, but of course to reach that goal all parts of the health workforce also need to be engaged.  Listening is key. Honest efforts to consider ideas and respectfully set limits will go miles towards this end.

7. Letting every opinion count

In healthcare, the large number of stakeholders (patients, doctors, nurses, insurers, regulators, advocates – just to name a few) renders it very difficult to have an environment in which everyone has their due voice, but without attaining that objective and in particular enabling the employee voice, no organization can be truly successful.  Listening is key.  Honest efforts to consider ideas and respectfully set limits will go miles towards this end.

8.  Linking performance goals and objectives to the organizational mission

In healthcare, performance management has so many specific aspects that there is at least one organization devoted simply to this topic.  When room for improvement exists, efforts to include both the employee and leadership in finding out what each could do better to ensure that goals are met.

9.  Reinventing as needed through change management and organizational development

In healthcare, change is enormous and there needs to be a strong organizational culture to cope with it.  Ensuring time, reasonable workloads, effective delegation training, and celebrating diversity will contribute to a culture where individuals and teams grow and flex under the constant pressure of change.  The sense of support will outweigh any fears.

10. Rewarding employees for modeling positive values and behaviors

In healthcare, as has been noted here before, positive behaviors have to be developed by experiential learning as well as fostered by reward systems.  In addition, leaders must look for individual and team examples of positive behaviors and engage both for input around rewards.

Castellano’s list is a very “human resources” type agenda, and we like the emphasis on organizational development.   The items are pretty high on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  One can hardly argue against any of the items on the list (weak values or blind leadership, anybody?), and certainly an organization that met all these criteria would be an exceptionally rewarding place to work for.

But, while we can all agree that such attributes are highly desirable, have we seen them in practice? Here and there, certainly, and we’ve mentioned some examples in this blog.  Collectively, probably not: can anyone suggest a healthcare organization that meets all ten of these standards?

Maybe, however, we can learn how that could be done.  If readers can nominate healthcare organizations that meet one of the individual criteria on the above list (or those in the earlier two posts in this series), perhaps we can gain some insight on how the ideal healthcare organization can be achieved.  Such nominations could provide wonderful material for blogging.  Please let us know if your organization is ideal in one or more ways.  We’ll accentuate the positive, right here!


Jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.




BB closer Headshot 1-13 CherationsBeth Boynton RN, MS is a national speaker, organizational development consultant, and the author of the award-winning book, “Confident Voices:  The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication and Creating Positive Workplaces”.  She specializes in communication, collaboration, & emotional intelligence for healthcare professionals and organizations and is trained in the Professor Watson Curriculum for Medical Improv through Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She offers medical improv training for communication, emotional intelligence, culture change, and teambuilding efforts. Her video, “Interruption Awareness:  A Nursing Minute for Patient Safety” and blog, “Confident Voices in Healthcare” have drawn audiences from all over the world.  She is currently writing a core text with F.A. Davis Publishing Co. tentatively titled Successful Nurse Communication:  Safe Care, Positive Workplaces, & Rewarding Careers, practices as a Per Diem RN in a LTCF for folks with dementia, and a student of improv.  Her complete CV is online.




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