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Operationalizing Compassionate Connected Care: A path to improved workforce engagement and patient outcomes

Compassion is a shared characteristic among those of us who built their careers in healthcare. You can’t care for other humans without it. But critical as this character trait is—and necessary for positive patient outcomes—compassion can be easily lost in the day-to-day operations of a healthcare facility. The pressures of improving patient outcomes, competing priorities, and meeting regulatory guidelines—just to name a few of the demands on healthcare professionals—often push empathy and compassion to the sidelines.

Compassionate Connected Care® is a framework designed to operationalize caring, compassion, and empathy by defining behaviors, and creating structures and processes to embed those behaviors into practice. And caring, empathetic, and compassionate healthcare begins with caring for the caregiver. Human connection in healthcare is foundational, and when organizations invest in their employees and care providers to enhance skills with respect to empathy, caring, and compassion, they will realized improvements in safety, quality, and experience of care—for everyone.

How fatigue and burnout impact staff retention in healthcare

Healthcare leaders understand that workers are exhausted. Burnout remains near an all-time high. “More than half of health workers report symptoms of burnout, and many are contending with insomnia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health challenges,” writes the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, in the New England Journal of Medicine. While this isn’t a new challenge within the industry—caregiver burnout existed long before the pandemic—it’s been exacerbated and compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.

It all becomes monumentally overwhelming. Administrators and leaders don’t always see a path forward, and adding a new framework may not seem like a reasonable solution to these challenges. However, caring for caregivers is an important first step in beginning to change the environment of care.

Everyone, everywhere, benefits from Compassionate Connected Care

Compassionate Connected Care isn’t a weekend seminar, and it’s not a simple series of modules for staff members to work through on their own. Rather, it’s an in-depth framework focused on everyone in the organization, from C-suite executives and clinical leaders, to front-line physicians and nurses, to environmental services workers, and the receptionists at the front desk. It’s applied at every location of care, including inpatient, outpatient, practice settings, and so on.

Compassion and empathy are sometimes considered “soft skills.” But in healthcare, they’re critical skills. Training designed to bring those skills, which healthcare workers already possess, to the forefront is usually enthusiastically received, because it benefits the entire organization—the patients and their families, providers, and every other healthcare worker.

Flexibility is key to Compassionate Connected Care 

One of the barriers when it comes to programs like Compassionate Connected Care is how to make the training fit within the organizational culture. How can a 15-facility health system with thousands of employees successfully deploy the same curriculum across the entire system? In larger systems, it’s virtually impossible to gather clinicians in person at a single location, and, in smaller systems, understaffing might be so problematic, there’s no time to do any “extra” work, like completing modules.

Compassionate Connected Care is a flexible framework that can be adapted for healthcare organizations of any size. Press Ganey’s team of clinical strategic consulting experts work with a healthcare organization to create an approach that will best meet that organization’s specific culture. Learning modules are based on the themes of the Compassionate Connected Care model and include a variety of interactive exercises to build skills related to empathy, compassion, and caring—for clinical and non-clinical staff.

6 themes of Compassionate Connected Care

1. Acknowledge suffering

2. Body language matters

3. Anxiety is suffering

4. Coordinate care

5. Caring transcends diagnosis

6. Autonomy reduces suffering

Compassionate Connected Care also includes a built-in toolkit that teaches managers the five keys to sustainable skills and provides downloadable, tangible tools to sustain performance through blended and peer-to-peer learning.

Keep what’s good, and add to it, with our Compassionate Connected Care framework

The Compassionate Connected Care framework is flexible enough to meet the needs of any organization. It also works with any of your existing organization-wide strategies. For example, most organizations have strategies in place to keep empathy and compassion at the heart of care. Press Ganey’s strategic consulting team begins by getting to know an organization—learning what is and what isn’t working. Then, they hold a roadmapping session to identify gaps and pinpoint how Compassionate Connected Care can best be leveraged to drive the biggest impact.

Adapting with ongoing support from our healthcare workforce consulting team

The average engagement for implementing Compassionate Connected Care lasts around 20 months. During that time, Press Ganey’s strategic consulting team periodically checks in and monitors your data to make sure things like patient experience and employee engagement stay on track. If patient experience scores dip, for example, the organization may need to adapt or pivot, depending on the conditions.

The program’s real value is its sustainability. Organizations are given the strategies and the framework to continue having positive outcomes for years to come.

Every patient experience matters. And every encounter a patient has with your organization should be a high-quality, friction-free interaction. By arming staff members with the skills needed  to enhance their compassion and empathy consistently, patients, families, clinicians, staff, and the organization as a whole reap the rewards. The best healthcare encounters are ones that make patients feel safe and cared for. Compassionate Connected Care gives providers the tools to do just that.

To learn more about the Compassionate Connected Care framework, and how to implement it at your organization, reach out to our strategic consultants, and we’ll schedule some time with you or your team.

About the author

Mary Jo is an Associate Chief Nursing Officer and Partner in Strategic Consulting, partnering with clients to lead strategies to achieve nursing and caregiver excellence by delivering compassionate connected care, strengthening caregiver resilience and engagement, and improving the health care practice and work environment. Prior to joining Press Ganey, she has worked as a clinician, nurse educator, advanced practice registered nurse and nurse executive. More recently, Mary Jo held the position of Director of Professional Practice and Magnet Program Director for ten years in both community hospital and academic medical center settings.Mary Jo served as an ANCC Magnet® Commissioner for six years and is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Profile Photo of Mary Jo Assi