Susan Gilster Head Shot-resized
by Susan Gilster, PhD, RN
The Gilster Group
Thursday, May 29, 2014


Susan Gilster Service Model Logo - ResizedServing others is an expectation in healthcare — it is our product, our business. People who choose to work in healthcare have a desire to serve, care, and enhance the lives of those in need. However, a service orientation is not always experienced.

An opportunity to create and operate a healthcare organization with “service” as the foundation led us to many lessons and opportunities. Many critical concepts and practices evolved over time into a framework for leadership called S.E.R.V.I.C.E.

The SERVICE construct illuminated domains of practice that we deemed critical to a successful organization. We were also clear that well-served employees would lead to well-served consumers.

It is key that all employees explore and define service for the organization, thereby raising awareness of the concept of service and what it means in their daily work.

Discussions about how service looks and feels enhance understanding. What does service mean to others like themselves, to their families and loved ones?

Service includes all stakeholders, patients, families, visitors, and persons who call, visit or deliver supplies. Exceptional service is an important component of the work and an expectation for performance.

Education, Expectations, and Empowerment
Empowerment is important, but only after providing the education, knowledge, and skills necessary to act in a way that supports the vision, promotes quality, and is in the best interest of the organization. Preparing employees for their job also includes providing expectations for performance.

Never-ending education ensures quality care, growth, and development. Offering education on all shifts demonstrates that all employees are included and valued.

Respect and Appreciation
Healthcare employee satisfaction is dependent upon respect and appreciation. Most employees indicate a need for respect from supervisors, but it is also necessary to illuminate the need for employees to value and respect one another. Every person in an organization is necessary and important.

Respect is paramount by all and to all – every stakeholder, every person who comes into contact with the organization is to be respected, appreciated, and served.

A vision is essential, not simply words on paper, but demonstrated in the behaviors and interactions of the employees every day. A vision offers direction and meaning, a destination and something to work toward, engaging followers to join.

Sharing a vision brings a large group of people together around a dream. Everyone is invested in making the vision a reality because it is theirs; it belongs to them, and they choose to make it succeed.

Participation and ownership is enhanced by having a voice in the organization. Employees want a voice; giving input to decisions, especially those that affect their work, offers unique and valuable information.

Inclusion is important for all stakeholders. Ongoing employee and patient/resident satisfaction ratings are important tools, but ensure that results are shared and input sought and utilized for improvement.

Routinely scheduled open and honest communication is critical. Allowing employees to share perspectives, ideas, and feelings in a respectful manner strengthens the organization, even though the messages are sometimes difficult for leadership to hear.

Since “two heads are better than one,” the strength of numerous employee voices in an organization is astounding. It yields information, solutions, and ideas beyond belief.

Enrichment – Caring for Yourself
Nurturing self and others is important in generating the energy necessary to be successful. Encouraging employees to care for themselves and one another is an important component of this model and an expectation of performance.

Enrichment is also about celebrating and fun. Celebrating accomplishments large or small encourages teamwork and is a motivator for further growth and success.

Documented research indicated very positive results for all stakeholders and the organization. The model was successful and has been implemented in other organizations around the country.

A Way of Life
When “service to others” is operational, amazing acts of kindness occur. Employees well-versed in the service philosophy are free to make decisions on their own. They do so without a desire for recognition, but simply because it makes someone else happy or more comfortable.

When a group of people committed to service move together as one, it is a wonderful and joyful experience. With this commitment comes a service philosophy that is deeply embedded in the culture, employees are naturally service driven, and in time it simply becomes a way of being—it becomes “a way of life.”

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