Woman's Hospital in Louisiana has endured much in recent years, from hurricanes and floods to state budget cuts and the construction of a $327 million facility that left some employees worried about its financial future.
But it has managed to thrive through uncertainty in large part by communicating with employees every step of the way.
When the Baton Rouge hospital broke ground on its new facility in 2008, some employees thought the move was financially risky and questioned the need for a new building, so hospital leaders tried to get them excited about the project by making them part of the process.
They consulted with staff on the design before the architectural plans were drawn, from the size and configuration of patient rooms to the bricks on the façade to the waiting room furniture.
“We wanted to create some excitement about the new hospital because people were anxious about it, so we constructed several walls of brick in our plaza and asked employees to pick one,” said Teri Fontenot, who has been CEO of Woman's Hospital since 1996. “It was our 'Pick the Brick' campaign. Each wall was about 20 feet by 40 feet and in a different color of brick and employees could vote on which brick they liked best.”
When it was time to design patient rooms, hospital leaders bucked the architects' recommendations and listened to the nurses who were asked to design the ideal layout.
Furniture and medical equipment were brought into a conference room where nurses could construct and deconstruct a room until they hit on a design that maximized workflow.
“At the time, our funding was unstable and we were about to go out and issue a lot of debt, so employees were worried,” Fontenot said. “But if we didn't move it would have been our eventual demise. We'd been at our location since 1968. It was no longer viable for us.
I think the employees thought, 'Everything is going fine so why move?' We wanted to make sure that they understood the process and why it was necessary.”
Employee morale took a hit during planning for the move, according to engagement surveys, but quickly recovered once it was completed in 2012, according to Donna Bodin, the hospital's human resources director. She attributed the comeback to strong employee communication efforts.