Transforming Healthcare Cultures Together

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How a Change in Intentional Actions Created Dramatic Improvements in Engagement, Safety, and Satisfaction

“What is in the sauce over there?” That is what some in healthcare are asking one Florida regional hospital. Patients and community members are curious about the uplifting turn-around at Hendry Regional Medical Center (HRMC) in Clewiston, Florida. Clewiston is “America’s Sweetest Town,” and HRMC fits right in.

R.D. Williams, CEO of HRMC, states, “something special is occurring with our people at the Hospital. We shifted our focus on them with faith good things would follow.” Most leaders focus on results in the areas targeting customers and financials. It is hard to survive a business or practice without recurring funds and customers to support it. However, HRMC took another path.

Mr. Williams has been working closely with his Chief Nursing Officer, Dakota Redd, on transforming the culture at HRMC over the last year to put people first as the priority. These leaders took preventive care to a new level and applied it to the people at HRMC with the goal of “helping people thrive by creating joy in work” to enhance a patient safety culture.

For leaders that like results, let’s start here regarding this Florida Hospital’s Transformative results, and then we can discuss how HRMC turned it around.

How did this Hospital change and turn it all around? Change is always challenging, especially across a team or organization. It is essential for the fundamental elements and plans to address the needs of its people. Preventive care applies to people, especially the caregivers that are put in place to bring their best selves with each patient and situation. It started with a couple of leaders believing in their people differently and aligning beliefs into values where people could participate and belong to something bigger than themselves. Mr. Williams recognized the fallacy of having values and not consistently practicing in a way that showed genuine care for its people. His team decided to take a few initial steps to reset the foundation to rebuild on its values.

  1. Committed to a People-First mindset which invited and welcomed people to get involved and even used words from the staff on what a good culture includes (thrive and joy were the most stated in surveys)
  2. Reinforced critical values with an acronym symbolizing its goal for the Hospital to THRIVE and where people can align actions
  3. Established an inspiring tagline for all to see the change is real and worth the effort to participate – “Helping People Thrive Creating Joy at Work”

HRMC’s mission is to excel in quality, compassion, and innovation to make the community healthier. Like most hospitals, HRMC has values to set the tone for how care is provided, and the organization achieves its mission. One of these fundamental value principles is Trust which HRMC defines as “We recognize the need to foster an environment of trust through open communication and collaboration. Everything we do is built on this fundamental principle,” says Dakota.

At the outset of this journey, Dakota recognized it was a struggle to connect their teams to their purpose and create a culture different from what they had experienced. Which he knew was not exclusive to this Hospital and pervasive in healthcare. He felt the teams were falling into the “us” vs. “them” trap and not working cohesively together. Dakota believed that more was possible by focusing on positivity as the pathway to changing mindsets would lead to happier and more engaged people- and better patient outcomes.”

Dakota has always believed that focusing on the patient experience, patient safety, quality of care, and employee engagement is the best recipe for success. However, he now sees the benefits of starting this recipe with employee engagement first. Dakota began this movement by creating a book club at HRMC, including C-Suite leaders. The first book sets the tone for developing a platform of change based on happiness. Dakota led the book club based on Shawn Achor’s book called, “The Happiness Advantage,” reinforcing the benefits of a happier and more positive mindset in the workplace.

This initial step got the leaders thinking there was something fundamental here to keep people upbeat, positive, and even happy. The mindset began to open with curiosity. Healthcare, including this Hospital, has seen unprecedented levels of burnout, turnover, and distrust since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Leaders felt a sense of urgency to get honest and provide a new level of genuine care to their people.

Dakota was later given another book for the next book club by the Chief Operations Officer, David Theroux, stating, “This is our next book. It has relatable stories and tools we can apply to bring our culture to the next level.” Dakota read the forward of this book “Live Your Possible,” and knew that it was the next natural step for what this Hospital (and himself) were trying to accomplish. Dakota suggested to leverage the fundamental guide in the book to showcase the cause and effect that started from these book clubs and how it became a natural way of working at the Hospital where people felt seen, heard, and belonged to something bigger. The level of conviction strengthened to not waiver and stay the course as mindsets began to see the light of possibilities.

The stage is set and thriving with ways to sustain the future of HRMC’s culture and way of work. When leaders begin to walk the talk and follow through with conviction, people will remain vulnerable to getting involved, and change will continue to evolve. The overall mission didn’t change, yet the order of focus did.

Instilling belief, trust, and joy back into the hospital employees has been the driver of seeing patient outcomes improve. Research supports that many organizations can see results with an eye for what is good for people and business.

Other examples and highlights along this journey go well beyond the numbers, where servant leaders embrace the power of connecting minds and hearts to help change people’s lives.

  • CEO led the way with vulnerability by opening meetings for all to share what we are each thankful for, and one woman stated, “I am thankful for you getting me excited to come to work again”  
  • Additional team members began joining the hospital book clubs to experience the organic shift feeding positivity and possible mindsets
  • Encouraged activities to reinforce key messages from these books, including showing gratitude, practicing being open-minded with curiosity, welcoming differences and ideas, meeting people where their needs are, and engaging people to come up with the solutions that work best here
  • Handwritten thank you notes of appreciation show others they are worth your time

What is in the sauce is believing in the possible by putting faith back into people again. Dakota states, “It has been the most enjoyable year in my career to see staff show up and light up the way during some of the most challenging times we have endured at this Hospital.”  Changing mindsets and belief in each other increased engagement and created a happier workplace to excel. Trust grew, and people became more invested in the outcomes. Healthier and happier patients become plentiful. “When you commit to helping people thrive, outcomes become natural, and we did it together,” notes Dakota.


Watch and listen to this story on the Live Your Possible Podcast – or at the PFCC Event with Dakota Redd and Darrin Tulley.

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