These days it's common to hear that employees don't leave organizations; they leave managers. Along the same lines, you could argue that patients don't leave healthcare organizations; they leave ineffective care providers. All operations, including those in the healthcare industry, can benefit from organizational behavior principles, which help management understand employee behaviors, boost morale, and improve organizational culture.
Organizational behavior informs how organizations operate and what their futures may hold. By focusing on behavior, organizational behavior management provides a practical approach to address critical components of flawed operations. In the healthcare sector, organizational behavior can increase patient satisfaction, ensure improved quality of care, and inform a patient safety approach to healthcare that strategically integrates behaviorism and humanism.
So, why is organizational behavior important in healthcare today? This article explores that question by covering the following topics:
Organizational behavior is an applied behavioral science that combines psychological, sociological, and anthropological concepts to better understand what incentives increase productivity and job satisfaction. It also draws from the disciplines of political science and economics. Organizational behavior explores:
Organizational behavior management in healthcare settings helps to ensure patient safety, patient-centered approaches to care, ethical behavior among healthcare professionals, and changes to increase patient satisfaction and spur quality improvements.
Like all businesses, healthcare organizations face numerous challenges in leadership, organizational hierarchy, decision making, group dynamics, conflict management, workforce shortages, and team building. Organizational behavior offers a way to navigate these issues by gaining a deeper understanding of human behavior. The discipline enables managers and healthcare professionals to learn the psychological, sociological, and anthropological principles driving workplace behavior.
As with any large-scale organization, healthcare settings tend to adhere to a hierarchical structure, and varying levels of authority can contribute to lapses in communication. Professionals in these settings are often reluctant to report errors or incidents to their superiors and senior colleagues due to possible negative impacts on their career advancement.
With the implementation of positive reinforcement and organizational behavior management techniques, practitioners and managers become more inclined to communicate openly with one another.
The healthcare industry draws its workforce from an exceptionally diverse pool. The confluence of such varied personalities and backgrounds increases the need for leaders with sound organizational behavior knowledge.
Healthcare organizations need to be flexible to change and meet diversity challenges—now more than ever. Inclusivity is a crucial component in this effort. Diversity expert Dr. William A. Guillory recommends a 10-step process:
Thomas Kochan, a professor of work and employment research at MIT, asserts that success in managing a diverse healthcare workforce "requires a sustained, systemic approach and long-term commitment." That effort is worthwhile because diversity creates the "opportunity for everyone in an organization to learn from each other how better to accomplish their work" within "a supportive and cooperative organizational culture."
Organizational behavior has become increasingly important in the healthcare industry because it increases the effectiveness and efficiency with which people from diverse backgrounds and cultural values work together. The field pursues three main goals:
Evidence-based research underlies organizational behavior's clinical recommendations. Collecting that evidence is an arduous task that can take up to 17 years. Implementation requires not only rigorous research and analysis but also meeting resistance to new practices; in healthcare, as in many industries, entrenched practices can be difficult to dislodge.
The ultimate goal, of course, is effective and safe patient care. According to behavioral psychologist E. Scott Geller, patient safety practices should be people-based and driven by the following guidelines:
A Google search on how to improve patient safety yields innumerable hits. Nearly all share in common an origin in organizational behavior strategies. Common tactics include:
Thanks in part to our information era, modern patients grow ever more attentive to patient safety practices. Meeting their rising expectations requires managers fluent in organizational behavior management practices.
Patient safety is paramount at any healthcare organization. Common safety challenges—including surgical errors, preventable infections, practical mistakes, misdiagnoses, deterrence errors, and medication use liabilities—exact enormous human and financial costs. That's why the organizational behavior techniques that can reduce these errors are so essential in the modern healthcare system. Several well-documented case studies highlight successful applications of organizational behavior management to improve healthcare worker performance and reduce medical errors.
In one study, researchers examined various feedback schedules to determine which best supported the acquisition and maintenance of three healthcare routines: feeding, positioning, and transferring physically disabled patients. All schedules effectively increased and maintained target behaviors, but densely scheduled feedback produced more immediate behavior change.
Another example showed how organizational behavior techniques such as training, goal setting, and feedback spurred nurses' increased compliance with procedures to lessen the probability of accidental exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Hand sanitizing rose from 24 to 65 percent during the intervention. Precautionary measures, such as recapping needles with one hand, removing gloves from the inside out, and wearing gloves while discarding waste also increased as a result of the intervention.
In another example, setting goals with interpersonal reviews of behavior-based feedback increased nurses' use of behavioral feedback to promote infection control practices in a head injury treatment center. Other studies revealed that applied performance feedback increased nurses' use of sterile gloves in infectious circumstances in an emergency room.
The above-mentioned examples of organizational behavior management research advanced patient safety, proving a direct correlation between caregiver safety and patient safety.
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