Research

Patient care aided by shared staff perspectives

Enabling healthcare teams to consider the range of professional perspectives held by colleagues can help improve patient outcomes, research shows.

Healthcare

Hospitals where workers were encouraged to engage with differing viewpoints reported reduced patient mortality and a positive culture change among staff, the study found.

The research is the first to show that that so-called ‘perspective taking’ can positively influence cultural and leadership change in a bustling health care environment.

Perspective taking encourages people to imagine and try to understand the viewpoints of others by attempting to put themselves in that person’s position.

The approach is widely used by psychologists to foster collaboration but studies exploring the phenomenon have mostly been confined to controlled laboratory settings or self-reported surveys.

Hospital setting

The international study, which involves the University’s Business School, is the first to take place in a hospital setting. The findings are published in the Journal of Management Inquiry.

Researchers reached their findings by interviewing staff working in a series of interlinked hospitals in the US. Staff took part in a two-year culture change programme called Leadership Saves Lives (LSL).

The study team, which also involved Yale School of Medicine and Berkeley School of Health, designed and ran the programme.

Coalitions of 15–20 key healthcare workers were formed at each hospital, and staff were interviewed at the start of the programme and then after six and 18 months.

Wide focus

The change programme comprised a series of interventions that saw coalition members focus on role clarity, shared accountability and creative problem solving.

Interventions included on-site workshops, all-hospital annual forums and web-based platforms for knowledge sharing and continuous remote support.

"The LSL programme brought people together into diverse, egalitarian change coalitions of staff,” says Tom Calvard, a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management.

“Each was encouraged to listen and share perspectives based around ideas of shared leadership, evidence-based best practice, quality improvement and positive culture change.”

Positive outcomes

Over the course of the programme, six out of ten hospitals reported reduced patient mortality and a positive culture change.

Findings showed that perspective-taking developed at an interpersonal level – between colleagues working in the same site – and in a wider context across the network of hospitals.

Perspective-taking also helped staff better understand the emotional experiences of others, build a clearer picture of others’ work contexts and become more willing to listen to wider perspectives.

"The wider implications from the research and findings are that it is possible to develop inter-related forms of perspective-taking across diverse staff groups and organisations," says Calvard.

"Although likely to involve challenges around diversity, conflicts and politics, the research suggests that organisations can attempt to broadly build perspective-taking across their organisations over time with some success in relatively low-cost, low-risk interventions."

Related links

Journal article

Business School