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Cardiology Management: Listening to Staff

How often do we really listen to our staff?  It can be so hard to find time for staff meetings or to create forums where staff can air their opinions without having to cancel clinics or ask staff to attend an out of hours meeting. So long as the service is ticking along all right why would we really take time to stop and hear their suggestions for service improvement?

In May I wrote that by giving your staff boundaries you create autonomy and accountability, and part of the responsibility to your staff is that you should help them to provide solutions to their problems rather than encouraging them to bring you the problem to solve. But, if we don’t take time to appreciate the suggestions brought to us by our staff, then you are contradicting the expectation of our staff to resolve their own issues and actively discourage this autonomy.

When your staff make suggestions about the service you are running it is often an untainted view. They don’t always consider how the changes they suggest may affect your budget or how it might be seen politically, and whilst this can be infuriating to them when the ideas they have cannot be realised, adjustments they suggest are often insightful to make services better for the staff and for the patient. As managers our job is perhaps to find the twist that makes it a politically and financially viable change and to make it work.

Many of the services that exist within Cardiology departments tend to be long established, perhaps from far before you joined the department as its manager.  How many of the services and systems that you have in place are functional, beneficial and effective? It is so important to not try to justify systems that do not work, or that do not enrich your department just because they are already in existence. By reviewing the systems you have in place, from request forms, to clinic times and staff roles it is possible to really redesign the function of your department and enhance your service delivery. In the absence of more staff and a bigger budget to work with, your role is to look at making what you have as efficient as possible.

Trust your staffs opinions, but also listen to what they don’t say. Often our greatest skill as managers is to hear what is communicated to us silently.  You may notice some clinics that your staff enjoy working and others they dread. Reviewing how these clinics are structured can make the service more productive by perhaps lengthening some clinics, shortening others and improving the turnover between patients. Additionally there are many areas of the service that your staff may find utterly infuriating, and we are here to look at these issues more laterally to think how we can make modifications.

Structuring a department to achieve waiting time targets with the workforce you have can be a real challenge, but by involving your staff so that they support the changes you make means the challenges you face become a shared responsibility, and this helps your staff to understand the bigger picture of workforce planning and service delivery whilst helping you to achieve your targets.



Sophie Blackman
Head of Clinical Cardiac Physiology
Watford General Hospital

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