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Janice Harrell, Community Hospital’s director of Nutrition Services, went to a management training course in 2005 in search of new ways to inspire the 110 people who work in her department.

What she found was inspiration for the entire hospital.

Harrell brought home the seed of an idea that resulted in a program called Exceeding Expectations. Its goal is to make Community Hospital the best possible place for people to work and for patients and their families to receive care.

The program is built on 10 standards developed by a small group of frontline employees, covering everything from patient safety to teamwork, communication to accountability. Everyone at Community Hospital, from volunteers to top administrators, is expected not only to meet the standards, but to exceed them.

"They are behaviors that apply across the board," says Joy Smith, nurse educator in the Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of the staff members who developed the program. "The standards empower each one of us to behave in the workplace at a higher level. They set the bar higher and are helping us help our patients better."

The program was officially launched in fall 2007 with a Broadway-style show staged by the group of employees who developed the standards. Since then, the program’s concepts continue to be emphasized throughout the hospital. They are reflected in employee performance reviews. Job applicants are asked to read the standards and acknowledge that as employees they would be expected to exceed them. Related skill-building classes are being identified or organized.

Each month, hospital staff members focus on a specific standard through a variety of activities, including brown-bag discussion groups, department-specific activities, and in a newsletter that highlights examples of the standard at work. One issue, for example, told of the teamwork that went into the purchase and installation of a new IV pump system designed to increase patient safety.

"Putting the patient first is our primary consideration, and incorporating that principle into day-to-day practice is a continuing challenge," says Dr. Steven Packer, hospital president and CEO. "Community Hospital’s staff members want to do better. They want to strive for excellence every day. I am proud that our staff developed and embraced this challenge."

Community Hospital’s program was inspired by an effort of the Baptist Health Care system in Florida, which became an industry model after it developed a program that took the system from the bottom of patient- and employee- satisfaction surveys into top-ranked territory.

"We aren’t in the same situation Baptist was in," says Harrell. "We set our standards high here already. But we can always be better and strive to be a place where all employees have commitment and passion, a place we can all feel good about."

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