Feeling stressed about employee turnover? Outliers hears there's a way to reduce turnover at nursing homes, potentially saving the entire industry $1.46 billion annually, and the only risk is that workers may be subjected to some really bad music. It may sound too good to be true, but a Meadville, Pa., neurologist says he has persuasive evidence that recreational music-making-that is, music-making that doesn't require a shred of talent-can reduce employee burnout, an endemic problem at long-term-care facilities.
Recreational music-making is not about inspiring great music, its proponents say. It's about "experiencing the joy" of making your own music-no matter how it sounds to discriminating ears.
The music man behind the study is Barry Bittman, medical director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center at Meadville Medical Center. The study involved 112 employees at Wesbury United Methodist Retirement Community who drummed to their own beat and indulged in breathing, imagery and movement exercises for one hour per week for six weeks. Projecting the results nationally, such programs could reduce turnover by 18.3%, saving 11 positions each year at a 100-bed nursing home, according to a study published in the fall/winter 2003 issue of Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. That would save more than $89,000 per year in costs, Bittman says. At Wesbury, which has 400 beds, the recreational music-making program actually saved 49 positions rather than the expected 44 positions, Bittman says. "For the first time, we're using musical instruments as medical instruments," he says.
Bittman brought his data, drums and digital piano to the world-famous Le Cirque 2000 restaurant in Manhattan recently to prove his point. He asked his guests to pause during the first course to sit in a circle in the restaurant's library. Each participant was given a drum and a stick to beat it with. Volunteers were asked to summon up their most stressful moments and express the painful memories on the drum. Bittman accompanied everyone on the maracas. Together the group improvised a funeral march, a warpath beat and an angry diatribe of some unspecified origin. After about 15 minutes the group went back to lunch, noticeably calmer and ready for the second course.
Firm exits after Medicare ad brouhaha
A controversial ad touting the Medicare reform law has claimed a casualty. National Media, a GOP media consulting firm that is working with the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, has dropped out of any future advertising on behalf of the reform law.
The Alexandria, Va.-based firm opted out of any future work because of "an ever-growing workload (that) makes it better for all parties concerned if we don't participate," the company said in a letter to Ketchum Communications, which is overseeing the ad campaign.
National Media handled $9.5 million in TV media buys for the $12.6 million campaign that broke last month touting new prescription drug benefits. National Media had been working on Medicare education campaigns for the past three years. More ads are planned later this year.
One of the partners in National Media is GOP political consultant Alex Castellanos, who produced a Republican National Committee attack ad during the 2000 campaign; the spot, which criticized Al Gore's healthcare proposal, subtly flashed the word "rats" across the screen.
The Medicare spot has been under attack for being more of a political ad than an educational one, and critics pointed to the use of National Media, which also has ties to the Bush election campaign in 2000, as proof.
In addition to Democrats who questioned the use of National Media and the use of government funds for the ads, the conservative National Taxpayers Union called for the administration to pull the ad, saying it was an election-year ploy. At one point, CBS said it would not run the ad, though it backed off after the ad was slightly changed to tone down how much seniors could save as part of the new Medicare legislation. The ad runs through the end of the month.
Both HHS and a spokesman for National Media said the political firestorm stemming from the ad was not the reason National Media declined further work on the campaign.
Two more hospitals collect Baldrige prizes
Senior leaders at Baptist Hospital, Pensacola, Fla., and St. Luke's Hospital of Kansas City (Mo.) were welcomed by President Bush and Commerce Secretary Don Evans in Washington last week for the 2003 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards at a ceremony at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Va.
St. Luke's Hospital CEO G. Richard Hastings, John Heer, president of Baptist Hospital, and Al Stubblefield, president and CEO of Baptist's parent company, Baptist Health Care Corp., accepted the prestigious award on behalf of their not-for-profit organizations.
Baptist Hospital also telecast the ceremony throughout the acute-care facility thanks to a satellite link provided by fellow award recipient Boeing Aerospace Support.
Baptist and St. Luke's are only the second and third healthcare providers to collect the Baldrige prize.