Huddle Up

Not Just for Football
by Keith Steffen , OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

Communication is key for any organization to work effectively. With a workforce of nearly 6,000 employees spread across a variety of locations, coming up with a single way to communicate throughout OSF Saint Francis Medical Center can be difficult, if not impossible.

About a year ago, as we looked at ways to make patient care even better, OSF Saint Francis implemented a “huddle” system throughout all of our nursing units. Some had been using this direct, frontline communication tool for a number of years; for others, it was new.

In a way, these huddles aren’t unlike what you see on a football field: the charge nurse or patient care manager (the quarterback) brings the team together in one area twice a day during shift change; they exchange key information—what patients might be at risk of falling, who’s having a rough day and needs a little extra attention, etc.; nurses (the players) then carry that information with them as they provide care (run the play) throughout their day.

A huddle only lasts 10 to 15 minutes, everyone stands, and there’s no written report—quick and efficient. It’s a standing meeting with required attendance held twice a day, 365 days a year at 7am and 7pm. The huddle is also the time when the manager passes along WOWS, comments from a variety of sources (patients, families, co-workers) acknowledging the nursing staff for good patient care.

Two or three times a week, members of the administrative team attend a huddle. With more than 2,000 nurses on staff, it is important to us that they know their hard work is appreciated. Lori Wiegand, chief nursing officer, sees the benefits, not only through improved patient care data, but also in staff morale.

“Every day, we are pushing the bar higher when it comes to providing the best patient care possible. You can’t do that without recognizing the efforts of our nurses who work so hard day in and day out to provide that level of care,” Wiegand says. “The huddles are a great way to acknowledge and recognize our employees as we make that mindful move toward perfection in care—and that’s our ultimate goal.”

Linda Helle, patient care manager of the Adult Heart Unit, has worked at OSF Saint Francis for 24 years, 13 of them as a manager. She has been holding huddles since becoming a manager and sees the benefits reflected in her staff. “You receive a little information every day, so fewer staff meetings are necessary, which means less time people have to come in on their own time. And sharing good news or comments from patients is a morale booster.”

While the nursing units may have pioneered the use of the huddle system at OSF Saint Francis, other departments see benefits in their use. The Public Relations and Multimedia Services team huddles first thing every Monday morning. You would think the frontline communicators within our organization would already be talking regularly, but as is often the case with individual schedules, it isn’t always easy. A 10-minute meeting to start the week lets everyone know what is going on that week, whether someone might need an extra hand, and offers a place and time to acknowledge a job well done. It may not seem like a big thing, but having even that brief time face to face does wonders for creating a positive and enjoyable atmosphere.

In any workforce, a positive work environment can do wonders for productivity. In healthcare, our focus is on providing the best patient care possible, and daily huddles help us achieve that goal. iBi

Keith Steffen is CEO of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

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