Let’s Just Get ‘Er Done: What Do We Need in a Planetree Coordinator?
By Margaret Rogan, RD, Planetree Coordinator, VAMC Northport, NY
Years ago, when I attended my first supervisory training, a brainstorming exercise encouraged participants to identify key traits that managers need to be successful. When the group reached 38 traits, I realized that I only had about 15, most of them inherent! This could be trouble. Over the years, I learned that honing inherent skills along with learning how to keep moving forward, are central to success.
When a facility starts to embark on the patient centered care (PCC) journey, it is crucial for senior leadership to select a Planetree Coordinator who is up to the task. This staff position is key to the mission of true cultural and organizational transformation, and it is worth taking a hard look at what unique skill sets are necessary to “Get ‘Er Done.”
- Exhibits Passion for PCC and Belief that “We Can Do It”: First and foremost, the Planetree Coordinator must have passion that runs deep for the overarching goal of PCC. He/she can verbalize what PCC looks and feels like, and believes that patients need to be at the heart of all we do, every decision we make. He/she should have an unflappable confidence that staff have what it takes to stretch and grow into this model. We must be prepared to identify pockets and examples of this across the organization to use as models for change.
- Corporate Knowledge: The Planetree Coordinator must possess a good working knowledge of how the organization truly functions: how to get things done, and where strengths and weaknesses may lie. Knowledge of who the true change agents are throughout the facility assists in selection of key roles for staff, ex. co-chairs and members of component teams. If the coordinator is new to the facility, time should be spent in gaining corporate knowledge, as this will be key to successful implementation. The Coordinator needs to be viewed as the “spark” that ignites fires of creativity, initative and strength.
- Corporate Honesty: As vital to the mission as corporate knowledge, is the ability to exhibit corporate honesty. This is the recognition that we must be honest in assessing opportunities for improvement, and speak candidly about what is really going on. For ex. If most or all staff know that a barrier exists, then staff have to feel safe enough to name the barrier. We cannot have an impact on changing the culture, if we do not recognize what needs to be changed. This honesty, and transparency, is vital to true and meaningful progress.
- Training Skills: The Planetree Coordinator should have good training skills, as the role calls for the set up of the retreat program, and other educational modalities. The coordinator can also be adept at identifying good trainers, if an active training role is not in the cards. However, the ability to “model” the concepts of the program is enhanced if the coordinator is visible as an educator. Also, connection with any available mentoring programs can assist with grabbing future change agents in the journey.
- Keeper of the Vision: The Planetree Coordinator must be visionary, and his/her view is long and wide, of where the organization needs to go; it is a treetop vision, not down in the woods. He/she has to be able to consistently bring the “eye” of the patient, as well as the staff to each situation and/or new initiative. The Planetree Coordinator must know where we need to go, and make clear the vision.
- Be “Down With the People” : The Planetree Coordinator needs to be a “go to” person for staff and patients, the contact that will always listen and model how staff need to be engaged. The role of staff pride in this mission is often overlooked: when staff are proud of their area (process, function and physical environment of care), this pride will glow like a beacon! Celebration of milestones and employee rewards need to be at the forefront.
- Patience and Stick-to-itiveness: Last but not least, the most important qualities needed for the job include patience and tenacity. There are times when a PCC initiative is just not going through to fruition and the coordinator needs to assess whether it would be better to just let it sit “on a back burner” until the time is right. There may be 10 ways to get through a door, and even if you are on the ninth option, you cannot give up. Go back to the Everyday Creativity video, and remember “there is more than one right answer,” “Don’t let patterns be your prisons,” “Turn a problem into an opportunity,” etc. Never give up on this patient centered care journey, it is a calling of the highest order. And let us not forget the most vital quality that a Planetree Coordinator must have: LOVE– for all we do, to bring our facility, patients and staff to the place of “meaningful progress in patient-centered care.”