I like your discussion on shared problem solving by staff involvement which aligns to our discussion last week on teams. When staff feel engaged their satisfaction will increase which will...

I like your discussion on shared problem solving by staff involvement which aligns to our discussion last week on teams. When staff feel engaged their satisfaction will increase which will correlate with improved patient satisfaction and better work environment. The staff are most likely closet to the problem and will have ideas on ways to resolve...if we ask and listen. One method used in our unit are actual 'problem solving' sheets that are kept at the station. The sheets are available to staff to use for quick awareness of a problem to leadership that also includes the staff suggestion for improvement. Most often, the front line staff knows what works well and not so well. Sometimes it may be a simple fix to improve and the sheets are kept open until resolution occurs. Some examples of problems include patient safety issues such as, patient identification, pharmacy issues, or work flow issues. A specific example is one common medication in our unit is a mouthwash twice a day which is poured into a styrofoam cup. However, cups are not a routinely stocked item so almost daily when the nurse has the medication in the room they have to stop to go to the supply room or kitchen for cups. A problem solving sheet allows a staff member to submit a solution which was to add the cups to the routine stocking along with maintaining cups next to medication dispenser for ease in retrieving. This simple solution saves steps and frustration of a nurses day. In your role as new manager/leader you have the opportunity to implement tools that offer your staff ways to communicate better work environments as I gave an example of. Can anyone else share tools or other techniques they plan to utilize for their departments?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nearly any endeavor can be implemented in consistency with a team approach to solving problems.  As the team setting of the workplace is transformed into a realm in which "jobs are increasingly a patchwork of responsibility fitting into an overall mosaic," the need to suggest solutions that draw from the reservoir of workers' strength is essential.  

In this light, several solutions can be envisioned.  One such solution would be to embrace a management style that makes it easier for people in a work environment to communicate pressing needs.  This feeds off of the idea that a team setting does not have management structured in pure hierarchy.  Rather, management is "flexible and responsive to changing demands."  Such an approach strives to create a work environment where management is closest to those who are "closest to the problems."  This could be one technique that a new manager/ leader could embrace.  It is an approach that validates the voice of the employees in a work setting as well as authenticating the team concept.

In terms of specific solutions, much will be dependent on a specific situation. Obviously, increasing management presence as helping to solve problems is a technique, but it can also be a tool.  If management could be able to provide respite to overworked staff, one might find a potential tool to alleviate the challenges of health care providers and workers in the health care field.  Recognizing that burnout and overwork in the health care field is vital. In increasing its presence in the professional setting where workers who are "closest to the problems," management can offer assistance. Some of this might come in the form of alleviating scheduling demands, providing respite for those who are overtaxed, and ensuring that professionals are not overworked.  This involves a more understanding approach to designing tasks and job descriptions, as well as scheduling in a more empathetic manner.  This holistic approach that management can take will yield greater validation of voice.  It can also benefit in workers feeling supported by their management.

Another tool or technique that management can embrace is the PDCA total quality management approach. This approach ensures that there is a constant examination and analysis of where potential problems exist in an organization.  In the health care field, this approach can yield several benefits.  The idea of establishing a plan, developing a course of action, checking the results of said action, and acting based on intended and unintended results is a management technique that can be quite helpful in listening to the voices of those "closest to problems."  The PDCA model sees these individuals as reservoirs of data that can be used to troubleshoot anticipated and unforeseen challenges.  This technique can be a tool that managers and team leaders can be used in order to solve problems and anticipate the development of new ones.