Getting the word out

Getting the word out

Communicating to a large department is a challenge faced by many leaders. How do you keep everyone on the same page when staff provide patient care across multiple sites around the clock?

Most medical departments at Hamilton Health Sciences have felt this pain, including the department of anesthesia.

“Our anesthesiologists work across four sites at HHS. We provide a variety of anesthesia services, pain management, critical care, we respond to trauma, and other emergencies and more. It can be tough to ensure everyone has the information that they need in a timely manner,” said Dr. Susan O’Leary, the department chief.

Committee supporting physicians

After hearing similar feedback from many medical chiefs, the Physician Hospital Partnership (PHP) committee – an interdisciplinary group which works to enhance relationships between the hospital and its physicians through a number of channels, like improving two-way communication – developed a centralized information sharing process which each department can adapt to its needs.

Delivered through an email template, relevant corporate content is assembled and provided to each department on a regular basis. From there, the chiefs and their teams make it their own.

You can never communicate enough.

“I’ve done similar things in previous roles and always found you can never communicate enough. Our departmental weekly newsletter is effective as it allows us to reach everyone at the same time. Two of the goals of our department’s strategic plan are to enhance communication and to distribute our group’s work. This achieves both and lets me connect with the group in a personal way,” said Dr. O’Leary, who is also a PHP member.

Improving department communication

Throughout the week, Dr. O’Leary and her executive assistant, Crystal Zdriluk, flag and triage information that they feel the department needs to know. This ranges from corporate hospital information to anesthesia specific info, like drug shortages, policy updates, practice standards and other more personal member interest items such as awards and recognitions. Every Friday, Crystal pulls the content together and Dr. O’Leary writes a weekly message.

“It’s a very easy, straight forward and user-friendly tool. It’s not a lot of work but it gets a big impact from our department,” Crystal says.

A nice way to get a sense of the direction our department is heading.

They’ve learned a number of lessons throughout the process. Consistency is the key, which is why they publish it every Friday to create expectancy within the department. Also, you need to make the content meaningful for the reader, not just the sender.

Keeping everyone in the loop

“It’s been a nice way to get a sense of the direction our department is heading. It keeps everyone in the loop and I find receiving weekly updates really does help with engagement in our department, under the peri-operative umbrella, and HHS as a whole,” said Dr. Tracey Bruce, a staff physician in the department.

My favourite aspect is the personal side.

The department is seeing the pay-off for its efforts as many staff members regularly engage with the content. Frequently, members submit an item for inclusion in the newsletter. Or when there’s a request for departmental representation, like a committee that needs members or hospital-related fundraisers, volunteers come forward.

“My favourite aspect is the personal side. I don’t see most members of our department very often.  It’s great to hear them receiving awards, compliments from our patients and families, and most importantly, hear about the celebrations in their lives such as marriages and birth of children.  There are usually photos which always bring a smile,” said Dr. Bruce.