Happy Employees Make for Happy Residents

Operators should boost staff engagement for positive patient outcomes.

By Geoff Fraser

Post-acute providers invest enormous resources into facility upgrades and equipment purchases, but the greatest investment you can make is in your team of dedicated therapists and caregivers. 

Passionate, engaged staff members create a positive and motivating environment that encourages healing. Here’s how to create that team:

Promote from within

Build an outstanding team and your patients will sing your praises. 

Start with correct hiring: recruit individuals who are patient-centered and passionate about what they do. Hire leaders who already possess these qualities and enable them to grow and succeed. Then, when it comes time to fill a new position, you’ll have a group of dedicated people within your own organization who are hungry for more responsibility and greater opportunity. 

Knowing that, whenever possible, positions are filled from within tells your people that the entire organization has a stake in continuing development. It works wonders for morale and it gives new team members and seasoned staff alike the added drive they need to work hard and innovate. 

Promote from within and people will reward you with loyalty, dedication and ingenuity.

Listen to staff and implement ideas

A great place to start when you are in need of new ideas is to consult those already on the payroll. 

Your team members have great ideas and listening to them motivates them. We work with our therapists to develop innovative ways to address the community’s needs and the needs of our patients. In one case, listening to our staff led to capital purchases that changed the landscape of our therapy offerings. 

In 2011, we asked our staff, “What do you need? Based on your own research and experience, what else can we do to help our patients and our community?” 

One of our therapy directors had an answer: a state-of-the-art therapy pool with an underwater treadmill. This high-end modality is usually seen in the well-appointed, spare-no-expense training rooms of big professional sports teams. But it was something that also promised great benefits to the senior residents in our therapy centers. 

Today we use that pool to its maximum capacity almost every day and have invested in several more. 

The overall value is enormous. The therapist feels empowered, our patients benefit from an effective modality and our business has a definite differentiator — all because we sought the input of our own staff.

Partner with the community

If collaborating with your staff is essential, so is listening to the community. What are their unmet needs? Can you find a way to meet them? Do you have the staff you need? The answers to these questions will help you form partnerships within your business and educational communities. 

In Jacksonville, we’re working on a new project called the Dolphin Pointe Health Care Center, a collaborative university/senior-living complex that will provide training opportunities for students and new graduates of Jacksonville University, sharing resources between students and staff. This partnership developed through a long-standing relationship with the Greg Nelson Family and its devotion to JU. 

Numerous studies show that cross-generational involvement stimulates both therapists and patients. Our community partnership will enable us to realize that benefit while providing valuable new opportunities for our staff. 

Train continuously

Make it easy for your staff to keep learning. 

We provide a continuing education program with an open policy. If a therapist finds something he or she wants to explore and feels it will benefit the community, we sponsor it. In doing so, our staff has been instrumental in starting many health-related community programs. 

This fosters an “innovators’ approach” and brands us as a forward-thinking organization. Our staff doesn’t simply treat patients; they are empowered to find ways to treat patients better. 

Provide tools and resources

People enter the healthcare field because they want to help others. Nothing fulfills that desire like watching patients achieve goals. 

For decades, one of our clients used a massive cast-iron skillet to cook Sunday dinners for her family. 

The time came when she could no longer lift the heavy cookware. Instead of accepting her new reality, she fought back, setting a goal to lift 10 pounds with her weakened arm. 

This was a very personal goal. When she accomplished it, she and our the staff celebrated together. Now her family once again looks forward to delicious Sunday dinners cooked in a cast-iron skillet.

Another client, who hadn’t walked in years, set a goal to ambulate 200 feet — the distance from his front door to his mailbox. The highlight of this gentleman’s day was that short 200-foot walk to check for cards from his grandchildren, but his legs no longer worked the way they used to. 

Our therapy pool with the underwater treadmill was a key element of his rehabilitation. He achieved immediate range-of-motion gains. Gait training in the pool’s low-impact environment allowed for replication of proper ambulatory biomechanics. Hydrostatic pressure promoted the healing and strengthening of injured tissue by reducing joint stiffness, decreasing swelling and lowering his blood pressure.

This patient first reached his goal in the water then on land. Our therapists took pride in elevating his rehabilitation experience with our state-of-the-art modality. The patient once again walked to his own mailbox where letters of congratulation awaited him.

Healthcare professionals are the heart of quality patient treatment and it’s essential to keep them engaged. Your staff will realize their greatest potential through training, education, support and empowerment. Your patients and the entire community will profit from your engaged and motivated team. 

Give your staff the tools, the training and the authority they need to achieve more than any of you ever thought possible.


Geoff Fraser is senior vice president of Clear Choice Health Care, a Florida-based skilled nursing provider.