The accreditation process reshaped our entire culture here at the Stratford Health Department in Stratford, Connecticut. Prior to beginning our accreditation journey almost six years ago, our small health department of 10 often operated in a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants and putting-out-fires manner. We often found ourselves recreating the wheel through duplication of efforts, and this led to struggling efficiency and quality of product. We lacked standard operating procedures for many of our essential services, which resulted in inconsistencies in the way we performed our day-to-day services, worked with consumers, and addressed problems and issues that arose.
As we shifted to a culture of quality improvement, our thinking and behavior changed. The first step we initiated on our accreditation journey was evaluating current procedures and processes (or lack thereof). Staff met weekly to revise or create standard operating procedures for administrative and essential services and functions in regard to larger-picture laws and ordinances. Responsibility was divvied up among staff members and it was not always easy to manage our day-to-day functions with these new improvement initiatives. Although we struggled at times, staff remained committed and you will now hear even the most robust laggards say, in regard to a challenge: “Do we have a SOP for that?”
In addition to the remodeling of our procedures, we transformed our culture into one of quality. Through training, practice, and hands-on learning, staff shifted to a more methodical thought process when tackling problems and improving services. We are constantly thinking about how we can improve quality and do so in a logical manner by collecting and analyzing data, testing theories and evaluating results to find effective and efficient ways of doing things. Prior to accreditation, most staff didn’t think about data collection and evaluation as essential practices that should be incorporated into our work. Now this behavior has become second nature. Our procedures continue to help guide the way as do our performance management systems and quality improvement efforts.
Stratford Health Department in Stratford, Connecticut, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on March 8, 2016.
About the author: Greta Roberts Broneill, MPH, CHES, is Assistant Director at Stratford Health Department in Stratford, Connecticut. Contact her at 203-385-4090 or via email at [email protected].