The Best Places to Work in Health Care Revealed

For the second year in a row, Modern Healthcare magazine has announced its rankings of the 100 “Best Places to Work in Healthcare.” The annual awards program, conducted in partnership with the Best Companies Group, recognizes workplaces that enable employees to perform at their optimum level to provide patients and customers with the best possible care and services.
Several of last year’s honorees are on the list again for 2009, while several new names have been added, thanks in part to a 33 percent increase in participation. This year 317 health care providers and suppliers took part in the program, compared with 238 last year. Organizations from all segments of the health care industry with a minimum of 25 full-time employees were eligible to participate.
Program participants voluntarily signed up for two surveys that were used to determine the rankings: the first was a questionnaire for the participating employer; the second was a satisfaction survey for the company’s workers.
CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System in Texarkana, Texas, is one of the employers honored for the second consecutive year, ranking third currently and seventh last year.
A shared governance model – which involves collaboration between nurses, hospital administrators and other health professionals in promoting professional nursing practice – helped make this honor possible for CHRISTUS and other facilities on the list.
“It’s our whole philosophy of how we build our environment,” said Nancy Keenan, MSN, MBA, RN, vice president/chief nurse executive at CHRISTUS St. Michael. “It’s the employees that we select. It’s the education and orientation that we give them. It’s the expectations that we set.”
A nursing advisory council meets monthly and includes a representative from each unit. Council members are selected by their peers for the typical three-year voluntary stint. A third of the members rotate each year, so the constituency doesn’t change all at once.
Members are in the process of establishing a sub-council focused on staffing. A Texas law mandates that 60 percent of the members must be direct patient care providers.
One of the biggest staffing challenges is adjusting to major fluctuations in hospitalized patients. The census may hover around 190 patients one day and then surge unpredictably to 250 the next, Keenan said.
“You have to find the right people for flexible scheduling, who are willing to come when you need them and flex off when you don’t need them,” she said. The hospital draws from a pool of its own nurses during busy times, and may turn to an agency for travel nurses if significant need arises.
Valley Medical Center in Renton, Wash., has been very successful in filling nursing positions, said Scott Alleman, MSN, RN, senior vice president of patient care services. The hospital ranked 10th on Modern Healthcare’s list this year, moving up from 34th the previous year.
Each nursing unit at Valley Medical has a committee that forwards recommendations to hospital-wide councils, which consider those concerns in rendering decisions related to nursing practice, professional developing or staffing.
Key components in staff satisfaction are the people who strive toward a collegial atmosphere. “Although staff satisfaction with the work environment is something we consciously work at, I’ve got to credit the employees themselves with the environment,” Alleman said. “Satisfaction breeds satisfaction.”
Among the facilities receiving their first recognition on Modern Healthcare’s list was PinnacleHealth in Harrisburg, Pa., which ranked 49th.
What makes PinnacleHealth a premier place for nursing is also a shared decision-making model that supports professional practice, said Sheri Matter, MBA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and vice president of nursing at the two-hospital system.
The staff is all unit-based. Gaps are filled by a float pool of 80 staff nurses who earn higher salaries for their competence in multiple areas.
The shared decision-making model consists of six councils devoted to practice, pride, quality, leadership, research or professional development. “They have say in every decision within the department of nursing,” Matter said.
For the complete list and more information on the 100 Best Places to Work in Healthcare, visit Modern Healthcare.