How Workplace Culture Impacts Patient Outcomes and Staff Satisfaction

workplace culture

A happy workplace boosts mood and productivity.

A few weeks ago, I had a patient tell me that she was very nervous to come to treatment. She said that once she was here, she found the staff to be compassionate, professional, knowledgeable, and happy.  The word happy resonated with me because, as the Chief Operating Officer at Sanford Behavioral Health, I have a responsibility to establish and maintain a healthy and positive working environment for our teams. It is also my firm belief that, as a behavioral healthcare organization, our workplace culture impacts our patient outcomes.


What are Outcomes?

What are outcomes? Outcomes are measurements of how our services impact a patient’s symptoms, behaviors, and cravings. For example, the status of a patient’s physical and mental health at the time they are discharged from our care. Outcomes are important in healthcare, more specifically, in behavioral healthcare, because they show us how effective our treatment programs are.


Over the years, we have invested in our workplace culture to provide a pleasant space for patients to recover and a great place for staff to work. Why? Because a positive workplace culture impacts patient satisfaction and the team’s performance. In fact, they go hand-in-hand. During my time at Sanford, I have been tasked with managing significant growth while maintaining the existing culture. This has not been an easy task during a global pandemic when mental and behavioral healthcare needs skyrocketed. At the same time, resources and staffing became more difficult to come by. Today, as a licensed and accredited substance use disorder, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, the need for staff well-being is more important than ever.


Workplace Culture

Workplace culture is the unique character of an organization – its personality. A positive workplace culture in a mental health facility attracts talent, impacts wellness, and improves the health and satisfaction of both staff members and patients.


“Workplace culture is the environment that surrounds us all the time.” Forbes


detox addiction treatment painted hall

Hand-painted, light-filled hallways – Sanford West Behavioral Health Campus

Effecting Positive Change

Employee Wellbeing

As a behavioral health facility, Sanford values mental health as well as physical health. There is a direct correlation between staff wellbeing and patient outcomes. With satisfied team members, there is less attrition. With less attrition, there is better and more consistent patient care. A happy workplace boosts mood and productivity. Similarly, employees are happy to come to work when they are passionate about the care that they’re providing and feel supported by the organization. Interesting programming provided by engaged team members leads to better attention/retention of patients and fewer departures against medical advice.


Quality Care Delivery

Quality care factors include ethics, involvement and professionalism, cost and value of care, a commitment to quality care, and strategic thinking.


“Patients in need of our services and care have arrived at a turning point in their lives. We have the privilege and responsibility to assist them in their journey towards success.  As care providers, we flourish when we promote a climate of trust, compassion, empathy, and accountability. The close-knit environment at Sanford has allowed us to do more than provide the tools. In fact, we empower our clients by treating them with respect and a positive attitude and providing them with the encouragement they desperately need. Working as a team at Sanford is key to helping our clients achieve the successful outcomes they expect.” Michelle Koets, Registered Nurse


workplace culture

Good communication and the exchange of ideas creates respect and trust.


Communication, Transparency, and Exchange of Ideas

Good communication and the exchange of ideas creates respect and trust at every level of the team. The ability to ask questions, promote ideas, or discuss problems is crucial to workplace culture. Meetings, brainstorming sessions, and suggestions are most valuable when staff feels safe and comfortable offering their real opinions and ideas. It’s also important for individuals and teams to work collaboratively. We see this in all of our programs when our medical and clinical teams meet daily/weekly to discuss patient care and transition plans. Communication should be open, with two-way conversations and no judgment. When healthcare providers influence the organization’s culture, they have ownership in the quality of care delivered to their patients.


Cross Training

As a growing, multi-facility treatment center, we have an opportunity to cross-train team members. Cross-training provides opportunities for continued professional development and education. It also allows different departments to get a better understanding of their colleague’s day-to-day responsibilities. We’ve seen this prevent siloed working environments by improving communication and teamwork across multiple departments.  When our nurses get an opportunity to sit with the admissions team and listen to potential patients and their family’s calls looking for help, it gives the nurse a better understanding of where our clients start their journey. Alternatively, when our admissions specialists spend a day with a nurse, they are able to see the compassionate, hands-on care our nurses provide and how that directly impacts our patients. It’s essential to invest in our teams!


Safe Reporting Systems and Workplace Culture

Safety culture captures attitudes, beliefs, and values about safety. A culture of safety is vital in a behavioral health facility to ensure safe and high-quality care. There must be a firm commitment from leadership and staff to prioritize safety procedures. Consequently, at Sanford, we identify and report patient safety hazards, establish accountability and transparency, value teamwork, and create a close involvement with patients and families.


Recruitment and Retention

Workplace culture will also affect employee turnover.  Unsatisfied employees lead to high turnover rates, which disrupts the care being provided to patients. When an organization is constantly having to hire and train, employees and teams are not given the opportunity to establish well-working systems, and programming and patient care can suffer.


In Conclusion

As a growing organization with multiple practice areas, we want to leave our mark on mental and behavioral healthcare in Michigan. Of course, numerous practice areas add to the challenge. The best way to combat siloing is by providing clear communication on the organization’s mission: to promote mental health, resilience and wellbeing; provide effective and accessible substance use disorder, eating disorder, and mental health treatment; reduce stigma; and support and educate those who are in recovery, their families and communities. Sanford Behavioral Health will continue to work hard to improve our workplace culture by placing value in our environments for patients and staff.

Katie compress (1)

Katie Vokes is the Vice President & Chief Operating Officer at Sanford Behavioral Health. She works closely with all departments on program development and future growth. Katie has responsibility for establishing and maintaining a healthy and positive working environment at Sanford. It is her strong belief that in a behavioral healthcare organization, the workplace culture impacts patient outcomes. Her goal is to ensure Sanford is providing quality care for its patients, while maintaining the excellent culture we are proud of, for Sanford staff.