In our current search for an additional Registered Nurse Supervisor, our staff got together to discuss the qualifications for the position.
There were the obvious things, of course—a valid degree, a valid Virginia license, professional demeanor, clinical experience and so forth. Then there were the “nice to haves”, like supervisory experience, exceptional written communication skills and computer proficiency. The list became quite long. And then… the one essential quality that so often disqualifies applicants who are otherwise attractive: a strong orientation toward customer service.
Why is it hard to find great customer service in health care?
Many explanations have been proposed. A third party payer system which interposes the insurance company between patient and provider certainly must have something to do with it. The lack of accountability and consequences surely plays a role. Then too, consumers obtain health care services more by necessity than by choice, while actionable information upon which to base an informed choice is usually lacking anyway. The Affordable Care Act is supposed to make a difference over time by placing more emphasis on the patient experience. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, poor customer service in health care remains rampant. We all have experienced it. The receptionist who ignores you and keeps shuffling papers while you stand at the window. The stern signage in the medical office: “Patients not permitted beyond this point,” or “Payment required at the time of service.” The doctors who refuse to call the family of an elderly, gravely-ill patient to discuss her condition and treatment. The supercilious attitudes of hospital or nursing home personnel who make you feel like an outsider on their “turf.”
Of course there are many exceptions. Some health care workers are kind, empathetic and thoughtful. Some organizations have developed great customer service cultures. But we notice these more because they are the exceptions, not the rule.
Since most applicants interested in joining our team as a Registered Nurse Supervisor necessarily come from a traditional health system background, many bring with them the attitudes and behaviors learned in that system. I am reminded of an individual we interviewed when we last recruited for a nurse a year or so ago. She had decades of experience in health care. She had all the objective qualifications. Her current position was Director of Nursing at an area nursing home whose name would be familiar to most. But she was steeped in a typical “I know best” approach. We couldn’t even consider her.
Ready Hands employees, from top to bottom, realize that the services we provide are solely at the pleasure of our clients and their families. Good communication, empathy, warmth and friendliness are essential requirements for all our nurses, managers and office staff. Our personnel take pride in being honest, keeping their promises, creating accurate expectations and then exceeding them. All the technical competence in the world would not compensate for the lack of these qualities.