What makes St.Columcille's an "Acute Hospital with a Difference"

What makes St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown an “Acute Hospital with a Difference”?

Sinéad Woods

Sharing local engagement stories is very important and none more so than St. Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown. The National Staff Engagement Forum has 3 members from St. Columcille’s and they were so positive about the incredible staff engagement efforts that are on-going at the hospital, we had to find out more ourselves.  A visit to the Hospital on Thursday the 25th of April, showed us at first-hand how positive and committed management and staff are to the engagement process in all areas and how staff are included in many service improvement initiatives that are on-going in the hospital e.g. training and engaging staff in lean processes and the fundraising and setting-up of a family room. The understanding of how an engaged health workforce relates to patient experience is clear with the patients journey and experience in the hospital being heavily considered when developing initiatives in the staff engagement efforts e.g. Memory Technology and Resource Room, Alzheimer’s café and the Dementia Friendly Garden. Whilst being extremely beneficial to patients, these “safe spaces” are also beneficial for staff as these resources allow them to provide the best possible care and services to their patients. What a great example of a hospital’s commitment to person-centeredness as it is so clear that St. Columcille’s hospital management put their patients and their staff at the centre of everything they do.

Dementia Friendly Garden  Dementia Friendly Garden 

But this wasn’t always the case in Loughlinstown. 6 years ago, an audit and the negative press it generated left staff feeling disheartened and negative about their work and their workplace.  However, it was this negative experience that motivated staff to work together. Hospital management also played their part by investing in their committed workforce and developing them with VEC Skills training to improve literacy levels, HACCAP training, among others. With this training more staff were able to progress in their careers in the hospital. Linda O’Leary, General Manager in St. Columcille’s, credits a 2-pronged approach (top-down and bottom-up) for how staff engagement processes have been successfully embedded into everyday work of the hospital, leading the hospital to winning “Best Hospital Engagement  in Lean Transformation 2019” among other prizes at the IEHG Lean Healthcare Academic Conference.

Communication is Key

As the saying goes “communication is key” and in St. Columcille’s communication about the engagement efforts seems to be everywhere. A newly developed newsletter is distributed hospital wide on a quarterly basis. This was started by the Staff Engagement Forum members and then handed over and further developed by Quality, Safety & Risk Department. It is through this newsletter that members of the National Staff Engagement Forum share information from the forum. Along with the newsletter, the “Great Place to Work” noticeboard is frequently updated and used to inform staff. But Loughlinstown staff don’t just stick to what you might consider “normal” methods of communication. The hospital’s “Corridor Characters” are quickly becoming a regular delight for staff which is definitely adding a creative spark and flare to communicating and advocating for staff engagement in this setting (to read more about the Corridor Characters of St. Columcille’s follow this link - The Corridor Characters of St. Columcille's Hospital ). A “You Said, We did” attitude has also become commonplace so that all staff feel like they are being listened to and heard. Recently, the hospital held a “Have Your Say” day which saw staff making 3 suggestions about what they want to see in the hospital. An ATM, longer canteen hours and a wider selection of food available made the most wanted list and hospital management tried their utmost to grant the wishes for the staff or to find an appropriate compromise such as getting a debit card machine in the canteen as the ATM was not possible. New menus were developed and fruit is left for staff in the canteen to avail of freely each Friday through the ‘Free Fruit Friday’ Initiative– subject to limitations.  Hospital management are hoping to do more “you said, we did” in the future as they can clearly see how it has benefited staff.

Great Place to Work Notice Board "A Great Place to Work" Noticeboard 

Staff Engagement Collaboration 

Collaborating with other staff groups in the hospital and outside organisations has also been instrumental in some staff engagement initiatives being successful. Collaboration with the Food Forum has ensured that patients in need of help when eating are given red trays – staff “stepped up to the plate” if you will. The multidisciplinary nature of this initiative/service improvement saw various hospital departments (speech & language, occupational therapists, dieticians, kitchen staff, porters, nurses and doctors) coming together to address a need of patients. The Staff Engagement group also linked up with Healthy Ireland to develop “Slí na Sláinte” - colour coded walking routes on the hospital grounds for both staff and patients. The Irish Heart Foundation were invited by the Staff Engagement Group on Staff Wellness day to advise staff of how to take steps to manage their health and wellbeing. Partnering with local businesses has provided furniture for the Memory Technology and Resource Room and t indeed IKEA even provided the staff to put everything together. Staff from all areas of the Hospital also gave their time in the helping out where possible.

St. Columcille's National Staff Engagement Forum Members 

Liam, Debbie and Margaret have been St.Columcille’s representatives at the National Staff Engagement Forum since the beginning but change is in the air. 3 new members have now joined the forum because as Liam says “we are already committed to and sold on the benefits of staff engagement so now it is time to spread the word through new people”. On behalf of the co-ordinators of the National Staff Engagement Forum, we would like to thank Liam, Debbie and Margaret for their hard-work and dedication to the forum over the past 2 years.

Debbie - member of the National Staff Engagement Forum Liam - Member of the National Staff Engagement Forum  

Missing: Margaret

We would also like to thank all the staff that we met on the day, everyone was so courteous and friendly and particular thanks to Linda O’Leary Anne Harpur and Liz Cullen for sharing the St. Columcille’s experience with us.