The Motivation

Without a doubt, fear motivates many people in different situations. But is it really the best way to motivate people, to help them learn, and to make permanent changes?

Without a doubt, fear motivates many people in different situations. But is it really the best way to motivate people, to help them learn, and to make permanent changes? I’m not so sure, but often it’s the tool we use the most. Our hospital is due to be surveyed by the Joint Commission “any day.” Since the end of last year we’ve been told that they could come at any time and we’d better be prepared. When we heard that another hospital in our system was being surveyed, the heat intensified even more.

I know we are not the only place that works this way. I’ve worked for many different hospitals and it’s always the same. We talk about how we should always be prepared for the Joint Commission. We should always have everything in place so that if they walked in the door we’d be set. But how many people really work like that? Even in our own everyday lives, are we always prepared? If that were true then when we get a big weather scare like there was this past week across the nation, stores wouldn’t be selling out of supplies as people stock up, they’d already have all the supplies they’d need in an emergency. But we don’t work like that. We always think we have time to prepare; we go about the work of the day and think that we can put off what needs to be done. That is until we are under the gun once again. Then the fear takes over and we use it to motivate ourselves and our staff.

From the top down, all we hear about is the Joint Commission. Every day a new directive, new tips and talking points come out. Questions that we should be asking every day suddenly seem impossible to answer. What is your unit’s mission? How do you communicate information from one clinical area to another? Where is the fire extinguisher? Shouldn’t we be finding a different way to work these things into our daily routine? The Joint Commission isn’t asking anything unusual. Set standards of care and follow them. Know what your organization stands for and follow their lead. Determine what you do best and do it and when you find areas for improvement improve them.

I would say that on the most part, associates are aware of all that they are expected to know. But when it is thrown at them all at once with the heavy hand of fear looming, things sometimes fall apart. I actually had a nurse come to me this morning and tell me he was a bit afraid of all the Joint Commission stuff. How was he supposed to remember the “right” answers to everything? And wouldn’t you hate it if you were the one who got the answer wrong? So how do I motivate him to learn what he needs to know, not for the Joint Commission, but so he can provide the best and safest care? I don’t think it’s through fear. I don’t think that telling him he just better know it is the most effective strategy. I told him he didn’t need to take all the handouts and e-mails and pocket guides, etc. home and study them as if preparing for an exam. Instead, he can look over the things, figure out why we’d be answering a certain way and feel confident that if he was in the ball park, that was good enough. And, I assured him, if he didn’t know a specific answer as long as he knew where to find the answer or who might know, that was fine. His face went from one of stress and anxiety to relaxed and calm. Hmmmm….. maybe fear isn’t the best motivator.

After all the surveys are completed, after all the questions are asked, after all the answers are given, what will remain? Hopefully, if we really motivate the staff to learn and question and provide care based on safe and efficient standards, then it doesn’t really matter what a surveyor might believe. Now we have to convince the administrators of that. Good luck with your own surveys and hopefully you can sail through them with calm confidence rather than sweaty palms, bounding hearts and fearful staff.