Six Skills Required to Improve Healthcare Teams

October 6, 2017

As we ask doctors and nurses to do more than they’ve ever done, and with sicker, more acute patients, the stage is set for mistakes, burnout, and turnover.  The cost is high: in dollars, time, and lives.  A fix is desperately needed.

Research applying six principles from the science of optimal functioning – positive psychology – has brought hundreds of healthcare teams together to solve problems themselves. Staff who learn to use the PROPEL Principles become empowered to be at their best consistently over the course of their career. Working together on PROPEL Teams, they have been able to cut their turnover rate in half, reduce fall rates by 70 percent, and buddy-up to get lunch breaks on 12-hour shifts (reducing burnout on their unit from 37 percent to 3 percent).

Whether you’re a doctor or a nurse, a CEO or clinical technician, you have ideas about what needs to happen to make improvements. That’s ridiculous, you may be thinking, because you have a hard time getting anyone to even listen to you, much less act on your ideas. Keep reading and I’ll show you how that can change.

Being aware of what you believe needs to improve is the first step of the change process. But you can’t accomplish anything by yourself. You will need to join forces with people from every level—from the C-suite to the bedside— whose participation in a multidisciplinary PROPEL Team will lead to real improvement. Importantly, this team is not made up of the usual formal leadership group. Instead, they’re the most positively engaged and socially connected people from a wide variety of roles.

Solutions that produce significant, sustained improvements almost always incorporate ideas from the people who have to make the change. For example, bedside staff know the practical considerations and downside aspects entailed in making changes. Getting their input before proceeding is essential. My research reveals their contributions provide crucial insights into the underlying factors that must be considered in a successful performance improvement initiative.

You, too, can learn to use “smart team” technology to create a “tipping point,” joining forces with the 30 percent of engaged staff to influence the 50 percent of employees who are in the disengaged category. Finally, you will discover how to sustain your gains and take on the next challenge.

You may be wondering what are these six PROPEL Principles that can enable you to become an effective change agent capable of achieving real improvements in your healthcare organization. Read on! You will learn the six essential skills that extraordinarily influential people use to inspire and influence others.

PROPEL is an acronym that will help you remember the six skills:

Passion, Relationships, Optimism, Proactivity, Energy and Legacy

The first skill for improving performance – yours as well as your staffs – is to ignite Passion. When you envision a positive outcome that you have a Passion for achieving, you will activate the ‘executive functioning’ part of your brain. Once the left pre-frontal cortex has a vision of a positive outcome it recruits other parts of your cerebral cortex to help it create solutions and strategies for getting there.

The next skill to cultivate is improving Relationships. Successful change initiatives require enabling people to remain resilient by garnering support from other people. You’ll discover how to cultivate positive relationships with key individuals who share your vision

To forge your allies into a highly effective change management team, they will need to be Optimistic thinkers (the third skill) in order to persevere through the trial-and-error process required to make incremental improvements.

The fourth skill, Proactivity, enables people to convert their negative reactions into positive actions. Numerous studies show that achieving success comes from knowing what personal qualities empower people to be at their best. Twenty years of research has proven that proactive people attain the highest level of success because they know and use their strengths when facing challenges.

Change rarely happens quickly or easily. You will need to be able to continually replenish your Energy, the fifth skill. Developing habits for renewing your energy will give you grit, the ability to persevere toward the outcome you passionately desire to attain.

Finally, this last PROPEL skill involves learning how to empower other people to make a lasting and meaningful difference. That’s the sixth skill – leaving a Legacy. You’ll feel deeply gratified with the results of your change efforts when you make your staff’s life better, and they in turn improve patient care and the bottom line.

Dr. Tom Muha is the Director of the PROPEL Institute and author of PROPEL to Quality Healthcare: Six Steps to Improve Patient Care, Staff Engagement and the Bottom Line.

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As the science of optimal human functioning has emerged, Dr. Muha has become a leading practitioner of positive psychology. He has been at the forefront in the study of how people involved in healthcare systems can achieve the highest levels of success and satisfaction. The PROPEL Principles empower healthcare professionals to apply six positive psychology principles – Passion, Relationships, Optimism, Proactivity, Energy, and Legacy – to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable results.

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