Stress is inevitable in the healthcare profession. In a bid to create a more pleasant environment for both staff and patients, a hospital group looks deep into the heart of its people management system.
Established in 1994, Union Hospital is the 12th local private hospital which was developed by Henderson Land Development, and was the first private general hospital in the Eastern New Territories.
"We regard our staff as valuable assets and this explains our people-oriented approach to our management and training," says Carol Cheong, director of nursing, Union Hospital.
To send this message across, all new recruits undergo a six- to nine-month orientation training programme, adds Fan Wong, the hospital's quality assurance manager, planning and training officer, and principal of the school of nursing. She adds that training also focuses strongly on experience sharing.
"Senior staff are assigned as mentors to help new recruits integrate into our corporate culture. They also assess the individuals' performance and help map out their career development paths," Mrs Wong says.
While the training scheme includes lectures on the latest occupational safety and health (OSH) issues like infection control, it also incorporates personalised sharing sessions on customer service and interpersonal skills at its core.
"Aside from classroom training, we see case sharing by experienced staff as a more effective tool to communicate our caring attitude to new recruits," Mrs Wong stresses.
Helping to confirm and develop individual aspirations has always been a focal point of the hospital's staff development endeavours.
"Our training programmes are customised for individual staff, according to their personal experience and background," says Ms Cheong. "We have also in place special programmes to meet their professional development needs."
For example, new staff who possess previous experience are encouraged to act as trainers and share their skills and knowledge with their colleagues at seminars or workshop. This helps them to settle into their new working environment while adding to their job satisfaction.
Considering the fast-changing medical field and constant updates in terms of healthcare knowledge and technology, the hospital fully subsidises senior staff to attend international conferences and seminars to enhance their expertise and help them build peer networks. Back at home base, staff convey the information they gain through these exposures to their colleagues through sharing sessions, adding value to the entire learning experience.
"This is also effective in creating a synergy and to help other staff develop," says Mrs Wong, who adds that medical surgeons and nurses also share their experiences in the operating theatre with colleagues. "This fosters mutual support and benefits staff, patients and ultimately the hospital as a whole," she emphasises.
The hospital generally provides one to two daily training sessions, rounding it up to 80 training hours per staff member. Training is not the sole responsibility of division heads, Mrs Cheong points out. Instead, each team has a designated in-charge team to formulate and implement training policy.
"For instance, the team for nurses consists of the head of nursing, deputy nurse-in-charge and senior registered nurse. This ensures that each individual staff member gets maximum benefit from training," she says.
In view of the increasing pressure on medical and healthcare services, and the demand for private hospital services coming not only from Hong Kong but also from the mainland, Union Hospital believes it is important for staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
In particular, the hospital subsidises recreational activities such as day trips, hiking excursions and barbeques for staff. Monthly interdepartmental get-togethers are held to facilitate internal communication.
In the past, events such as seafood trips to Lamma Island and day trips to Ngong Ping 360 were popular, with many staff bringing their families and friends along. The annual staff dinner remains a major highlight. "We also host festival gatherings such as mid-autumn dinners at our staff canteen," Mrs Wong says.
The hospital has installed gym facilities to promote physical fitness and organises make-up, yoga and social dance classes. Counselling services are available for individual employees who require them.
"We also have an in-house Mandarin language teacher offering free group and individual tuition," adds Ms Cheong.
To promote a sense of belonging, staff are invited to provide their input on making the hospital a better place to work. "For instance, we replaced the patient call bell with an intercom call service following a nurse's observation that an intercom call can help identify the call's purpose and improve work efficiency," says Mrs Wong.
"We ensure that all our staff know they can make a contribution to the success of the hospital," Ms Cheong emphasises. "When our staff is happy, this directly benefits our patients."