'First impressions affect perceptions of care'
If you’ve ever walked into a shop and walked straight out because it doesn’t look like the kind of place that would have what you were looking for, or U-turned in restaurants because they appear too run-down to serve food safely, you know first impressions count.
But how many clinicians and NHS managers actually think about patients’ first impressions of healthcare environments?
Of course, we have the choice of where to shop, eat and stay, whereas many patients don’t have a choice of where they are cared for in quite the same way, but the principles of the importance of first impressions still ring true.
The programme was launched after the institute’s focus group on Productive Ward heard from one mother, who said that she could tell what kind of care her daughter was going to receive within 15 steps of walking onto a ward.
Of course she could. It’s vital that patients (and relatives and carers) feel confident in their healthcare. If they enter a chaotic, messy, busy environment, or they aren’t greeted by a welcoming reception - what faith will they have in the care given to patients?
The 15 Steps Challenge asks staff to visit wards and make observations on what they see, smell, hear and feel. The associated toolkit recommends they look out for certain things, some of which are tangible, such as information about what the uniforms mean, cleanliness and safety concerns, along with certain behaviours.
The observers then give rapid feedback to the team about the positive things they have seen as well as their recommendations.
On a busy ward it can be difficult to look objectively at how it appears to patients and relatives. You only need to look at the raft of television shows from experts telling people how to sell their homes, run their restaurants or boost occupancy at their hotels to know that a new pair of eyes can be valuable.
Certain trusts have leapt at this programme - finding it a relatively inexpensive way to really analyse care - and then improve it.
When so many nurses are frustrated by being given so little to work with, this is something that can be done at relatively little cost, and yet make a big difference.
The toolkit is available free of charge to NHS organisations in England and can be accessed here.
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