Ensuring Optimal Health Care Services with Positive Workplace Environments


A positive workplace environment is paramount to ensure exemplary health care services for patients. An environment plagued by a bad work culture can serve to negatively impact staff which causes subsequent risks to patients under their care. 

As a result, executive staff must guarantee that health care workers are operating in an environment that drives through notions of respect and collaboration so that patients get the best care possible. 

Ahead of the free-to-attend Healthcare Workforce Event at Australian Healthcare Week 2019, we chat to Colin Smyth, Program Coordinator for Metro North Hospital’s “Values in Action” Initiative to explore benefits that the initiative has provided and how it has created a more optimistic workplace environment to ensure the best standards of healthcare services for the future. 

The Values in Action Initiative

To guarantee that Metro North Hospital and Health Service staff provide the best standards of care to patients, two programs were introduced to optimally improve work environments and patient safety standards.

The Values in Action Initiative (VAI) in the Metro North Hospital and Health Services is designed to position existing and new health care workers to meet the future challenges of health care service deliver in South East Queensland.

The program aims to integrate Metro North values of Respect, Teamwork, Compassion, High Performance and Integrity into their workforce. This initiative consists of several actions designed to further improve the standards of service at Metro North which are:

To use value based recruitment to source new team members across Metro North:

Colin mentions that “Value Based Recruitment is a way of integrating our values into the recruitment process to ensure that we hire people whose personal values align with that of Metro North. This is done using a range of selection techniques to test for ideal behaviours within our candidates for vacant positions.”

By ensuring that the hired candidates have the same values as those exuded by Metro North, it guarantees that the new staff will already be familiar with the notions and have them ingrained in their way of working.

Provide orientations for new team members with Metro North values in mind:

By changing the orientation program to more encompass the values of Metro North, it teaches new staff how important the values are from the get-go. The comprehensive orientation program also helps to stem work related anxiety and stress that may result from a new job.

Colin says that the newly improved orientation program will not be a complete overhaul of the previous one; instead, it has just been improved in a few aspects. Asides from integrating the values into the on-boarding, some training will be moved to an online platform to create a more streamlined training environment. The online training will include videos of staff and patients discussing their experiences and providing examples of the values in action at Metro North. So far, Colin reports that this new format has been successful in orienting new staff.

Provide Performance Support and Professional Development for Staff

Once new employees have been successfully recruited, managers will provide continuous support to team members using an enhanced Performance and Development Planning process (PDP) A PDP enables staff to identify their personal and business goals that are most significant to their organisation's success.

Colin says that the enhanced version of their PDP reworks “the existing section of the PDP where line managers and team members discuss workplace behaviour. This area has since been expanded to enable staff and managers to have more supportive conversations about workplace behaviour and receive more constructive feedback.

These support services for staff works to further ingrain notions that Metro North are willing to help and guide their workers.

Reward and Recognise Staff for their Outstanding Work

Metro North has developed a new rewards and recognition program that rewards exemplary work which represents our values. This enables upper management to use those values as guidelines for the rewards and demonstrates to staff that representing these values through outstanding work efforts results in rewards.

Other initiatives used to support staff and drive a culture of staff appreciation include:

A well being program which consists of many activities such as fun-runs and smoking cessation initiatives. As the program develops it will be geared towards building resilience and increasing self-awareness of stress for team members.

A celebration and fun program that brings together a range of new activities and events designed to celebrate the good work done by the Metro Health workforce. This is intended to de-stress staff and help with anxiety, allowing them to come back to work better refreshed and happier about their jobs.

Currently, the celebration and fun program consists of; family fun festival days, hospital of origin tournaments, staff BBQ’s, soup days and family film nights.

The Ethos Program

The second program developed by Metro North is an Ethos program which aims to further increase the standards of services provided at Metro North and ensure great patient safety.

Colin says that to guarantee exemplary patient safety, positive organisational cultures are key. As a result, the Ethos Program which serves to drive notions of respect and safety through the staff.

The program encourages staff to speak out about incidents in the workplace that may endanger colleagues or patients. For example, employees who are aggrieved by the behavior of a colleague and wish to improve that with respectful feedback will be able to submit their experience privately via the Ethos Program.

“The intention of this program centers around helping people improve their awareness of how their behavior may be perceived and help them to improve that. Doing so will then have a positive effect on patient safety and overall experience for staff and patients,” Colin says.

However, Colin mentions that the Ethos Program is not designed as an initiative that punishes staff for regulation-breaking behavior as there are other protocols in place for those circumstances. Instead, the program is a mechanism for people to report negative experiences with the intention of collaborative resolution.

This then reinforces the culture of staff support, ensuring Metro North workers that they’re in a positive work environment that strives to help them perform to the best of their ability.

The Journey so Far

 The journey for Metro North has been eventful so far. Since the launch of the new initiative there have been challenges and subsequent successes as a result.

According to Colin, the biggest challenge so far has been implementing the initiative throughout due to the size and complexity of the workforce at Metro North Health and Hospital Service. This then led to difficulties in educating all the recruiting managers on the benefits of Value Based Recruitment. However, Colin mentions that this was more an issue in the initial stages of the program roll out. Since then, the engagement rate has been increasing exponentially as more staff become informed.

Successes include a significant “improvement in recruitment fidelity in several key senior roles in Metro North along with many middle management and operational roles across our campuses and directorates,” Colin says.

 On the other hand, there have been many successes as a result of the new program. Firstly, “the Value Based Recruitment initiative has seen an improvement in recruitment fidelity for several key senior roles and many middle management and operational roles across Metro North,” Colin says.

Additionally, Colin explains that the new initiatives have made clear that the Metro North values have inspired Metro North staff to be the best versions of themselves when they work with other colleagues and their patients. “Through the Metro North Values in Action initiative, we have created a better working environment for our team members and deliver better and safer healthcare to our patients and service users.”

“As we all know, having the right people in the right role immediately contributes to best practice patient care.  As time goes on and more people are recruited into the organisation under our values based framework, we anticipate significant change not only in the culture of our workforce but overall continued improvement in our standards of patient care,” Colin notes. 

Learn more at the FREE Healthcare Workforce Event running at Australian Healthcare Week on the 27-28 March at the ICC, Sydney.