What’s your salt?  By Tamala S. Bradham, Ph.D.

Since 1175, one of the oldest English proverbs still heard today is “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  But, you might not have heard the revised version by Madeline Hunter, a famous American educator.  In a speech, she said “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.  But I say you can salt the oats.”

So, what’s you salt?  How do you motivate people to engage in quality practices?

Motivation is what causes us to take action.  There are numerous theories to explain motivation ranging from instinct theory (inborn pattern of behavior) to humanistic theory (cognitive reasons to do certain behaviors).  So let’s take a simple test:

1)     What gets you up in the morning?
2)     Did you eat breakfast?
3)     Did you brush your teeth?

I know you could answer all the questions but what did you learn?  Hopefully, your answer was something along the lines that you do these things automatically without much thought – it is just what you do.

Let us look at what motivates the people in the healthcare industry.

What motivates the C-suite healthcare executives?  I would guess that they would say that the right care was delivered at the right time…interpretation – met budget and no lawsuits.

What motivates middle management?  Knowing that they are being listened to and that they contribute to decisions being made are key to motivating middle managers.  While the pay check is nice, having the tools and resources to do their job effectively goes a long ways.

What motivates physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals and staff?  Motivating the front line staff means that the pay and working conditions are fair and equitable and that they have job security.  Furthermore, they want transparency and flexibility.

Where does quality fall into motivating the people in healthcare?  How do we integrate quality (or salt) into the delivery of healthcare (or oats)?  Remember the answer to the simple test above?  We just do it!  We integrate quality into everything we do so it becomes second nature.  We integrate quality into our

1)     mission and core values,
2)     strategic plan,
3)     data management and benchmarks,
4)     pay structure, and
5)     communication and marketing.

Just like salt, the key in quality is transparency!  You know it is there but you don’t see it.  The right amount makes all the difference in the world.  If you salt it too much or don’t add enough salt, then the outcomes are not as good.  Quality is the same way!

So, what motivates you to integrate quality into your practice?  What is your salt?

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