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Out of the Executive Suite and Into the Bedpan: Front-Line Approach to Hospital Marketing and PR

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

windsor regional hospitalWe think this concept is an unusual, but exceptional, way to reveal system-wide hospital marketing and public relations opportunities. Could it also be used in a healthcare provider's office?

A television program initially inspired his idea, says David Musyj, president and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada.

It’s anything but an ordinary approach to internal hospital marketing and public relations, but it’s decidedly an insightful way to understand the work of the hospital’s audience of employees. Moreover, it revealed improvement opportunities that truly benefit the patients and staff.

Here’s how it works. As the title suggests, the Undercover Boss TV program puts a top-ranking business executive into the role of an entry-level employee in his or her own company. Windsor Regional Hospital took a page from that script and added a “walk-in-their-shoes” twist, plus a "genius" suggestion bar and a dash of patient safety rounding.

Windsor Regional Hospital has more than 700 beds and 3,000 staff. The secretive “undercover” approach was discarded in favor of a shoulder-to-shoulder invitational. “I wanted to have a discussion with the front-line staff and patients about their daily activities, accomplishments, stresses and suggestions for positive change,” according to Musyj. “Therefore, I asked staff to invite me to ‘work’ with them for a few hours.”

“I have been a hospital housekeeper, nurse, pharmacist, admitting clerk, emergency department registration clerk, transporter and more. I have supported front-line patient care, delivered supplies, cleaned toilets, made beds and delivered food trays, to name a few tasks. I have done these tasks about forty times. At the same time, I have been able to have discussions with staff, patients, and families about positive changes that could be made to enhance patient safety and patient care.”

The resulting program, Mr. Musyj says in his write-up here, was “amazing and positive.” It recognizes—and truly appreciates—the overwhelming pride of the staff in the care they provide. The experience was evidently eye opening, with suggestions and changes that improve operations and patient care throughout the facility.

Is this approach something that you might use in your hospital and medical center? The Windsor Regional Hospital program was relatively easy to initiate, but we see a significant element in the feedback from staff and employees who provide their own insight, ideas and suggestions for the benefit of everyone. What’s more, the president and CEO has a unique and continuing platform to engage and involve patients and families in positive ways.

Let us know what you think. Would you or your CEO do this? Could department heads also do what this CEO does? What has resulted—both good and maybe not-so-good—in terms of hospital marketing and public relations? We’d like to hear from you.

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