Changing Culture in Healthcare Through Employee Engagement

Our blog continues on healthcare and employee engagement.

The story on the access of care in the VA system continues. This week on PBS Newshour, Gwen Ifill talked with two individuals familiar with the situation. One of the people was with Disabled American Veterans and the other was a former Dept. of Defense official. Both men spoke on the culture within the VA medical system. One man praised the employees who worked in the VA system and told about the wonderful care veterans receive once they have entered the system but there isn’t enough money to provide adequate service. But the other man said there was a terrible culture problem within the VA system and there is not enough staff to perform the jobs. There are more veterans coming back from service using the system and they also can’t get scheduled because staffing is inadequate.

All of these are problems facing the VA and they are all great problems that could solved through employee engagement or a continuous improvement process. If there is a financial problem, it’s a great time to bring employees together to look at ways to reduce costs or look at processes that could improve efficiency and productivity, especially if there isn’t enough staff.

It’s no wonder there’s a culture problem if there isn’t enough staff. Existing staff are probably under more pressure and may be required to work overtime. While people usually don’t mind overtime on occasion, mandatory or abuse of overtime can become a burden and put a strain on employees especially when they have family concerns, too. Lack of staff can lead to other problems such as more mistakes or increased turnover which goes back to the financial problems since productivity is reduced and costs are increased.

Culture problems, too, can very easily be addressed with employee engagement and continuous improvement processes. Cultural assessments can provide measurement and direction for groups to address problems occurring within an organization.

The arguments can continue on what is causing the problem or who is causing the problem but if the problems are what they are suggesting, the problems could be interrelated and are very fixable.. Just having employees work together on resolving the problems can be a start to cultural improvement!

Employee engagement and continuous improvement processes can work in any healthcare organization not just the VA medical system. It doesn’t have to be problems like those in the VA but it can be simply to look at new processes or trying to achieve Meaningful Use and implementing electronic health records or computerized order entry systems can all be implemented much easier by bringing staff together.

The link for the PBS Newshour and the VA problem is here.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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