AHRA 2017 preview: Quality work rewarded is quality work repeated—and emulated

Numerous studies and surveys have shown that U.S. workers in every field, including healthcare, derive more job satisfaction from being recognized for a job well done than from any other top-down motivator. Not even a pay raise goes as far. Of course, turning that insight into action across a large radiology department takes a little doing.

The good news is that it can be done, and with measurable results to show for the effort.

Take it from the four-site radiology department at the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center based in Burlington. Its 300-plus technologists and other staffers have been appreciating a culture of recognition for the past five years. Every quarter, one is awarded a framed certificate and a $100 gift card for outstanding work in quality improvement. Over that five-year period, the 40 to 50 techs on the diagnostic x-ray team—a pilot subgroup testing the program’s impact on employee engagement—have increased their scores on said engagement every year.

In fact, at 6.4 out of a possible engagement level of 7, they’re currently running well ahead of the national mean for hospital employees (5.2) as well as the mean for UVM Medical Center across the enterprise.

Paula Gonyea, MBA, the hospital’s director of radiology, says the program, which is unofficially called “Kudos & Best Catches,” is succeeding largely on the strength of its connection with quality improvement via radiologist involvement. (The rads do the nominating.)

“Uniting everyone around quality is great for teambuilding,” Gonyea told HealthImaging in a phone interview. She says the nomination and selection processes, as well as the awards themselves, get radiologists and technologists regularly communicating on quality. “Improving communication,” she adds, “is a big part of this.”

Gonyea will share pointers and how-to’s from the symbiotically rewarding program Monday, July 10, at AHRA’s annual meeting in Anaheim.

Teamwork counts

Another strength of UVM radiology’s recognition program is its inclusive vision. While most of the quarterly awards go to techs—usually for meeting imaging-quality challenges in a way that can be emulated—a nurse has won, Gonyea points out, and others are eligible as well. Plus each runner-up gets a letter from the radiology chairperson recognizing the specific work that earned the nomination.

“Everyone who gets nominated for a Kudo knows how much we appreciate what they do,” Gonyea says, adding that most winners bring their certificates home rather than displaying them at work. Going for gentle discretion over high visibility is often a considerate team-player move, Gonyea believes, because it’s possible to de-motivate nonwinners by inadvertently making them feel left out. “There definitely is that risk,” she says.

Going forward, her department will try some new things around, for example, technologist peer review. “We’re always looking to build enthusiasm around doing the best job we can do,” she says, “so we’re trying to come up with innovative ways to get people involved.”

Radiology QI, then and now

Looking ahead toward AHRA 2017, Gonyea recalls how her interest in employee recognition was initially piqued when, one day, she took note of how thoroughly things had changed in radiology QI over the years.

“When things were film-based,” she reflects, “you could go through a rejected-film bin and look through the repeated studies. In the digital age, it can be tougher to keep that same level of [watchfulness]. We’ve had to change to keep up with the times.”

“You can’t keep doing things the old way,” she adds. “You don’t have the old tools—and some of the new tools aren’t really there yet. That’s where I would say you need to innovate.”

If you’d like to hear more about that and are headed to Anaheim, don’t miss the Monday talk titled “Employee Engagement Through Quality, Peer Review and Recognition.”