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Arkansas Children’s Hospital

While Other Hospitals Face Overcrowding, Layoffs, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Boasts Happy Patients, Staff—Thanks to Lessons Learned from Disney Institute

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Summary

For a health care organization, patient and employee satisfaction scores are critical. Improving scores can be a long and difficult process. However, once a health care organization finds the right formula, as Arkansas Children’s Hospital did, the results can be astounding: Patient satisfaction scores above the 90th percentile; low turnover; financial stability and growth; and ranking on national lists of the best companies to work for in America.

Overcoming Obstacles

Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) in Little Rock, Ark., is the only private, nonprofit pediatric medical facility in the state, and has 370 beds today to meet the demand. In 2001, ACH was faced with mid-level patient satisfaction scores, a continuous loss of good staff members and difficulty recruiting critical staff.

The hospital tried short-term fixes to no avail; it was decided that a new and different approach was needed. ACH leadership turned to Disney Institute for help and sent a group to the Walt Disney World® Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in May 2002. The group participated in a learning experience called "Excellence in Healthcare Leadership," which was tailored specifically for ACH.

During the experience, participants learned how Disney trains its leaders and how strong, effective leadership and clear communication are keys to business growth and fostering a positive working environment on the front lines.

"It really starts with us," says ACH executive vice president Scott Gordon. "If we communicate effectively, listen to our staff and show them how we ‘walk the walk,’ then they’ll want to do the same."

Creating The Change

ACH leaders returned to Arkansas ready to get to work, first developing a service theme to effectively capture and communicate their purpose, settling on the words that had been painted on the hospital interior many years before, "Giving Care, Love and Hope."

Next, the team identified service and behavioral standards for bringing the service theme to life. Based on Disney’s service recovery model, the team also created a strategy for when things didn’t go as planned.

ACH also developed a new system for recruiting and retaining the right employees, part of which included an employee onboarding program based on Disney’s orientation program called "Traditions." Every Cast Member (Disney speak for employee) goes through this two-day enculturation experience during their first week. Regular "huddle sessions" then help ACH maintain communication with staff and reinforce the organization’s commitment.

"We’ve built a culture in which going above and beyond for patient care is encouraged," Gordon says. "Employees can recognize each other by awarding Victory Visions pins when someone excels in any of our service standards. Staff wear the pins on their nametag lanyards as a badge of honor."

And Victory Visions aren’t just for nurses and physicians. All staff members are expected to personify the hospital’s values. For example, several maintenance staffers were awarded pins when they went above and beyond and built a wheelchair ramp at a child’s home – on their own time.

Reaping The Rewards

More than a decade since its first Disney Institute engagement, ACH celebrated its centennial by boasting the following achievements:

  • Ranked on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list four years in a row, from 2008 to 2011
  • Recognized as a Morehead Apex Workplace of Distinction in 2010 and 2011
  • Named one of U.S. News & World Report’s best pediatric hospitals in 2008
  • Increased outpatient visits 55 percent since 2002

Additionally, a survey of 1,000 randomly selected families across Arkansas found that more than 70 percent say they would choose ACH over a local facility if their child had serious health issues, even if it meant travelling.

ACH has also seen a positive impact on its bottom line. The net revenue for the hospital has been the highest of any hospital in the state for the past four years.

"We could not, in our wildest imagination, have predicted how powerful a change agent the Disney Institute training would be for our organization," says Gordon. "Our success is grounded in a patient-first culture across the hospital and we’re proud to be a special place for special people committed to helping kids."

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