Many hospitals and health care organizations are implementing color by discipline dress codes for their staff as a way to easily differentiate roles and responsibilities. These decisions are not always popular among employees, but there are many reasons behind this trend.
Here are six reasons for color-coded scrubs in hospitals:
The Patient Experience
The Beryl Institute defines the patient experience as "the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care." Studies show a patient’s perception of his or her caregivers is affected by the caregiver’s appearance, perceived skill and the patient’s ability to distinguish between his or her healthcare providers.
Patient satisfaction, which is influenced by the patient’s perceptions, is one element of the entire patient experience. Hospitals routinely administer patient satisfaction surveys to outgoing patients. In these surveys, patients often comment on their caregivers’ lack of professional appearance, as well as the inability to identify who was in their room. Conversely, organizations that make the change to standardized uniforms report increased patient satisfaction in these areas.
Why do patient perception and patient satisfaction matter? Healthcare is a competitive space. People who have a good experience with their caregivers — and their hospital stays overall — are more likely to recommend the facility that treated them. More importantly, research shows the patient experience is an indicator of quality and associated with better health outcomes.
Studies consistently show patients have trouble distinguishing their caregivers when there is no uniform standardization. This presents a safety concern when patients, their families and other caregivers are unable to identify the primary, licensed person responsible for providing accurate and consistent care.
Caregiver identification is of particular importance in pediatric and labor and delivery wards. If an organization employs a clear role-based uniform standard, including embroidered logo, it is much harder for an unwelcome visitor to blend in with, or even impersonate, care providers.
While organizations are discussing plans to color-code, staff commonly express dissent and anxiety over the proposed change. However, once dress codes are in place, even the most skeptical of staff members often experience a change of heart.
Employees see the enhanced atmosphere of professionalism and subsequent improvement in patient perception of the organization. And with the addition of color by discipline, staff enjoy a sense of team unity and pride with their fellow RNs, radiologists or physical therapists, along with easier identification of fellow employees.
“We actually receive comments from employees that they think it looks professional, it was a good decision to make, there’s pride in wearing the logoed scrubs and in having the patients know which caregivers are nurses versus techs, [for example],” said Michele Thoman, System Chief Nursing Officer of NCH Healthcare System.
Many hospitals strive for Magnet status — awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA) — which recognizes quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovation. Further, Magnet status is used as criteria in several other hospital rating systems, including Leapfrog Hospital Survey and U.S. News & World Report.
To achieve Magnet status, hospitals must demonstrate nursing best practices, the highest standards of professionalism and exemplary quality of care. Hospitals seeking the designation recognize the need for a standardized uniform program as part of their commitment to excellence. And when hospitals can boast of achieving a “magnet culture,” studies show they excel in the areas of patient care, safety and satisfaction.
Medicare and Medicaid Incentives
Under the 2016 Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals are affected by their performance in several key areas related to quality of care; patient experience of care accounts for 25% of their score.
Patient experience is officially measured by the HCAHPS survey, which includes questions about a patient’s communication with nurses and doctors, the cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment, the patient’s overall rating of the hospital and his or her likelihood of recommending the hospital. All of the questions are tied to the patient’s perception of his or her care providers and the organization as a whole.
Image matters. A patient's perception of an organization and its brand becomes reality. Magnet status reflects positively on your brand. Professionally dressed staff in standardized uniforms featuring a brand’s embroidered logo present a powerful picture of expertise and authority to patients and visitors. Health care is increasingly competitive; how an organization is represented by its employees affects patient satisfaction, patient outcomes and, ultimately, the bottom line.
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