Hospital Spotlight: Eaton Rapids Medical Center Engages Staff to Change Organizational Culture

Posted on August 15, 2017

Heather Schragg joined the Eaton Rapids Medical Center (ERMC) team nearly five years ago as director of patient experience, quality, compliance and risk management. ERMC is a rural, critical access hospital with 20 licensed beds.

Schragg’s initial goal was to help improve culture within the organization.

“I went to my boss immediately after starting and asked if we needed to focus on external or internal customers,” said Schragg. “We ultimately decided that we needed to focus on both customers, equally. Most businesses just focus on the external customers, and it’s not particularly the best course of action. At the end of the day, if employees aren’t happy, neither are patients or families.”

Schragg’s task was not an easy one, as changing culture is often difficult and multifaceted. It requires broad change throughout the organization, overcoming obstacles, and engaging employees.

To overcome those hurdles, Schragg worked with other ERMC staff members to build a strong framework that consisted of various steering committees and staff-led initiatives.

“We all came together – motivated, positive leaders within the facility – and decided that we wanted to make the improvement process our own,” said Schragg. “We knew that whatever we decided could not be a flavor of the day, week or year. We needed to be fiercely committed to it.”

First of all, ERMC implemented the 212° program, which encourages staff to go the extra degree. Banners and stickers that explain the program’s philosophy (“At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water, comes steam. And with steam, you can power a train. Just one extra degree makes all the difference.”) are hung and dispersed throughout the hospital.

 “You can always apply that extra degree to healthcare,” says Schragg. “There’s always something that can be done to go above and beyond – it could even be something as simple as an employee smiling and thanking a patient for choosing their facility over another.” 

In addition to the 212° committee, ERMC created five other committees to break barriers, increase communication and focus on excellence:

  • Professional Practice Committee (PPC): Nurse-based committee that improves nursing care model, staffing and productivity
  • Service Excellence: Concentrates on customer service and patient satisfaction
  • Best Places to Work: Focuses on employee satisfaction
  • Community Relations: Executes community events  
  • Healthcare Education and Training (HEAT): Staff development and growth

“All of our committees are leader led, employee populated and employee driven,” said Schragg. “New ideas are presented by peers, so they’re much more well-received by staff.”

ERMC uses a patient communication tool in the form of a badge buddy called “RELATE.”

  • Reassure – Introduce yourself and let the patient or customer know you will be able to help with their needs.
  • Explain – Use common language to describe the procedure/process and how long it is expected to take.
  • Listen – Ask the patient or customer if they have any questions and actively listen to their concerns.
  • Answer – Answer all questions clearly and completely or find someone else who can help.
  • Take Action – Provide the best customer-centered care and service. This means it’s all about them!
  • Express Appreciation – Thank the patient or customer for choosing ERMC and allowing you the opportunity to serve them.

They also have a branding scheme called “Be Positive," which focuses on staying positive when facing adversity.

Lastly, ERMC has an employee bucket stuffer/sucker program, which recognizes good and not-so-good behavior among staff and teaches words to ‘lose’ and ‘choose’.

At ERMC, they take pride in and have a true passion for their work, which is clearly indicative in their day-to-day operations and their drive for continuous improvement.

 “We’re very proud of our hospital,” said Schragg. “We’re surrounded by large systems and we’re one of the few independent hospitals left in Michigan. We’re led by our President and CEO Timothy Johnson, as well as our Board of Directors. We view ERMC as our little gem.”

This article was featured in the new MHA Keystone Center Newsletter. To subscribe or to share a success story with other MHA members, please contact Ashley Sandborn, MHA Keystone Center communications specialist.

Tags: MHA Keystone Center, Patient Safety and Quality, culture

Posted in: Patient Safety & Quality

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