By Jennifer Paquette
In the emerging world of value-based patient care, spiritual care departments have much to contribute. Indeed, compared to the old fee-for-service model, which often viewed spiritual care as unnecessary overhead, the new healthcare economy allows much room for our contributions. But we will need an informed strategy that demonstrates the contribution of spiritual care to the overall plans of the health system.
A good strategic plan is a perfect launching place. If you have not built one in a while, now is a good time to consider the basics.
- Review the vision, mission, and values of your health system. You may have looked at them dozens of times, but read them again as if you are seeing them for the very first time. Consider the words of highest impact — “excellent,” “sets the standard,” “high quality.” Successful departments build a strategy that mirrors those statements, and their strategic plans reflect that belief. If your department is not striving to “set the standard,” for example, ask what it would take to do so. Be candid but not pessimistic. (As a reminder, vision statements set the tone of the future for the organization; mission statements frame the reason for existence within the community; values define how patients and families, staff, competitors and the community experience the organization.)
- Know the strategic plan of your organization. This is essential. Failure to mirror the goals of the larger organization will render a department — or its leadership — irrelevant. Be aware of where the system is in the life of that plan. Is it in the middle of a five-year plan? If so, your organization’s leaders have learned some lessons that you may be able to apply to your strategic plan. If your system is currently building a new strategic plan as the old one sunsets, planning documents are likely available that will yield valuable information into the next plan. Discover the priorities. For example, will the new clinics supersede the heart institute? Supporting the system’s priorities should be among the department’s priorities.
- Gather any other data available. HCAHPS, for example — what are the strategies for your organization emanating from this data? Press Ganey scores — where are the challenges and how can spiritual care help? What other system data are available?
- Know your strengths. How is your department known within the system? Do chaplains from other systems want to work for you? Do your chaplains have the skill sets to support the strategic direction of the system? What does your department do well? Do you have the data on your department that will help you set strategies for the future? (Pastoral care professionals tend to know their shortcomings, especially as viewed by the system. Be aware of your strengths; focus on your goodness.)
- Know your resources — time, talent, and money. Be honest about the depth of each of these. Be realistic but not pessimistic. Everything is fixable.
- Know your competitors. Spiritual care departments do not always consider these, but they are important. Your immediate competitors are all the other departments in your hospital that are competing for funds. For instance, a competitor under your same roof — an end-to-end initiative, like oncology — might like to build and finance its own teams, which would include one or more of your best chaplains. Do not acquiesce easily. Other competitors are the external competing institutions in your marketplace that might find your chaplains or volunteers attractive.
Having gathered and studied the available information, it is time to build your strategic plan. Your timeline should be about three years, five at most. If your system’s plan extends past that time, it will likely be amended before its scheduled end. For your departmental purposes, hold to the shorter time. It will challenge you to be more nimble and adaptive.
You have learned the key areas of your organization’s strategy, and you know priorities. How will spiritual care support those initiatives in the framework of vision, mission, and values? Be lavish in including stakeholders outside your team in the planning process. When the plan is finished, every stakeholder, every member of your team — including the spiritual care volunteers (some of your best ambassadors) — should know your plans. If you decide to create vision and mission statements collaborative to the system versions yet distinct for your environment, put them on plaques or signs for your department and ensure that they are highly visible by everyone, every day.
As you build the plan, consider the impossible. Too often we shut down our pathway to success because we believe the obstacles too great. Build the plan. Perform the gap analysis between the resources (time, talent, money) available and those lacking. Then figure out what it would take to get from where you are to where you need to be.
I cannot say this enough: Do not sabotage your success with, “We can’t!” If the plan is a good one and clearly demonstrates your support for the strategic initiatives of the system, you may be surprised by the people willing to help you with resources.
And last, be prepared to manage change. The best change management techniques are founded on communication, up and down the avenues of people who need to know. If your organization has a department chartered with making change work for the organization, call upon it for help. If not, do your best to ensure that every stakeholder receives frequent communication, even when things may not be going well. Once more, you may be surprised by those willing to help, in good times and bad.
And God’s blessings on your journey.
Jennifer Paquette, BCC, is director of mission services at St. Joseph’s Hospitals in Tampa, FL.