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Tying the Hardest Knot: Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Hospitality

September 1, 2006
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by the staff of Glen Cove Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Glen Cove, New York
Tying the Hardest Knot: Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Hospitality
by the staff of by the staff of Glen Cove Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Glen Cove, New York The notion of hospitality has existed as long as there have been travelers-centuries upon centuries of strangers making themselves at home in unfamiliar places. Four-star hotels and luxury spas exist worldwide for fortunate vacationers. Meanwhile, in today's long-term care facilities, residents also desire the same fundamental qualities of welcome and comfort. Our management team at Glen Cove Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation wanted to supplement our most basic goal-to provide unsurpassed healthcare-with a program to narrow the gap between the spectrum of luxury and the archaic levels of nursing home care so often ridiculed in the media. We realized that by developing a program to directly address hospitality and quality-of-life concerns, we could combat both negative images in the media and resident concerns of comfort while still providing the very best care possible.

But the art of hospitality is an intangible phenomenon that is effective only when it permeates the culture of the institution and its workers. The transformation of our existing milieu would require all of our employees to understand and embrace the concept of hospitality. And so, in March 2005, our facility launched the program Tying the Hardest Knot: Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Hospitality.

Setting Goals
Our program was designed to develop and implement a culture within the nursing home that would ultimately improve the quality of life for our residents, improve the facility's reputation, and provide a better work environment for our employees.

These objectives were quantified as follows:

  • Increase our guests' overall level of satisfaction at the facility as a direct result of improving the quality of life from 53% "satisfied" to a significant rise in the "very satisfied" category.
  • Increase the occupancy rate from 94% as a direct result of increasing the facility's reputation.
  • Decrease the overall percentage of employee turnover from 10% as a direct result of employee satisfaction.

Implementation
At the outset of the program, the administrator provided the management team, composed of the department heads, with a copy of the book Fish!: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen, which served as a basic primer on the fundamentals of hospitality. After reading the book, department heads became completely immersed in the quest to understand, practice and, ultimately, teach this delicate art. Sharing the administrator's knowledge of and experience with the subject ignited the passion in all of the department heads to continue to read books, view DVDs, and glean information about hospitality programs in facilities as diverse as nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, and Disney resorts.

For approximately two months, the department heads met weekly with the administrator to educate themselves and share resources, ideas, and information regarding hospitality (see "Hospitality Principles"). Once the management team felt that it had a working knowledge of the concept of hospitality, it created a blueprint for implementing the hospitality program. The program was divided into three main components:

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