I was meeting with a new client recently at their skilled nursing and rehab facility for our in-service prior to launching their online digital marketing campaign.
This rather large facility was already suffering from a terrible online reputation with many horrible reviews posted to their Google Business Page, Yelp page and other social media and healthcare platforms, over a sustained period of years.
Many of these posters and reviewers took to the internet to excoriate our client, loudly declaratively, and most notably over (allegedly) egregious nursing related concerns.
My firm already had its work cut out for us, since we’d have to begin by working backwards to tackle and address their old reviews, before we could move forward to help them develop a new and healthy online footprint.
A critical function of my in-service at the facility was to get to the root cause of why they had earned the dubious distinction of being rated a 1.5 out of 5-star facility on their Google page and elsewhere online.
I was scheduled to meet with their top level administrative staff and the various department heads. I figured that our onsite conference would provide instructive insight into why the facility was deserving of such a terrible reputation.
Instead, I was met by a team of dedicated and highly qualified professionals who were clearly passionate about their work and individual roles in shaping the experience of their patients, residents and families.
They came prepared for the meeting and seemed genuinely interested in fixing the problem and stopping the bleeding.
What exactly is the problem, I wondered to myself?
These folks were enthusiastic and engaged and came across as the type of professionals I wouldn’t hesitate to entrust with the care of my own loved one.
So why did this facility have such a nightmarish reputation?
I couldn’t figure it out.
The meeting was extremely productive. I got great vibes all around.
Before I left, I asked to be given a tour of the facility and the assistant administrator graciously agreed to show me around.
We took the elevator up to their short term sub-acute unit and began to walk the floor.
The first thing I noticed were the plastic bags containing dirty laundry virtually littering the floor in front of every resident room.
This was smack in middle of the day and I was astounded to witness this.
Then we passed by an elderly woman who was visiting her husband who was a patient at the facility. She had maneuvered him in his wheelchair to the nurses station and was almost begging the LPN on duty to find someone to take him to the bathroom.
The LPN responded to this poor woman in a completely condescending, dismissive and abrasive manner. It was clear that she didn’t wish to be bothered.
I was shocked to the core to see such a blatant display of disrespect and dare I say, contempt, for the patient and his spouse.
I locked eyes with the agitated wife for a moment and she mouthed the words to me, “do you see what I deal with here?!”
I had my epiphany.
It was so obvious why this facility had earned their terrible reputation. I almost felt as though I had met with the wrong people that morning!
It’s true that the top-level staff were a dedicated and compassionate group of people.
However, they are not the ones who were directly interacting with the patients and families every day.
They are not the “boots on the ground” and the folks “in the trenches” who are tasked with the physical day-to-day care and wellbeing of the patients.
The aides and nurses are the ones family members interact with. Judging by my first glimpse, these were clearly the type of people I would never allow anywhere near my own loved one.
For me, this was a teachable moment which I’d like to share with all healthcare professionals:
It is true that the proverbial “buck stops here” with the top-level staff and it is your jobs to motivate your employees and line staff to get on board and work diligently to properly care for your patients.
However, the bottom line is, your CNAs and nurses will be the ones providing the care. If they just “don’t get it,” you could have the very best, most dedicated and compassionate department heads in the industry and you will still be deserving of your low ratings and shameful consumer feedback.
You need to know and really, really, understand that your nurses and aides wield the power to make or break your business.
Place that responsibility into the wrong hands and you will do irreparable harm to the people you are supposed to be caring for and to your own business and bottom line.
Judah Gutwein, LNHA, is the CEO of Sky Care Media LLC, which is an online marketing agency for healthcare providers.