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In the first article in this two-part series, we addressed the need for Central Service managers to make ethical decisions, and we presented some basic information helpful in assuring that they do so. In this article, we explore the social responsibilities of these managers and their employers—healthcare facilities—to be “good citizens” in their communities, in their state and nation, and even around the world. The main emphasis: the best managers recognize their ethical concerns and the results of applying basic human resources principles extend beyond the boundaries of their department, their facility, and even their local community.1
The concept of social responsibility (often referred to as “corporate responsibility” in the world of business) relates, in part, to the efforts that a healthcare facility makes to consider and address commitments to its constituencies including patients, employees, businesses including suppliers, and investors, (if applicable). It is, hopefully, obvious that a healthcare facility must satisfactorily address commitments to these stakeholders. Note: Part I of this series addressed, in part, ethical concerns related to suppliers, and numerous (most) articles in this column that began more than twenty years ago in Communiqué have focused on the relationship between Central Services managers and their employees.
The concept of social responsibility extends the obligations of healthcare facilities by suggesting that they also have responsibilities to the community-at-large and to society more generally. What are these responsibilities? They include concerns that healthcare professionals become involved in outreach activities within their specific communities and in society as a whole. Some examples such as providing the best-possible healthcare at all times including during natural disasters and other emergencies are obvious. Others (examples: the provision of healthcare education within the community, contributions to the research efforts of educational institutions, and activities relating to professional associations) depend, in part, upon a facility’s resources. However, the interests of facility administrators and staff members will also determine the type and extent of social responsibilities that will be addressed.
Today’s society increasingly emphasizes that its organizations be good citizens, and healthcare professionals including those in Central Service can do so in many ways such as when they:
The above and numerous other examples of how healthcare professionals can increase their scope of service to a broader community base require a sense of direction from top-level administrators. They also require the interest of and enthusiasm from the facility’s staff members who must have an expanded definition of “ethics” beyond relationships with their internal constituencies. Instead, ethical concerns should include an ever-expanding definition of “community” that extends beyond the city limits of a facility’s location and, perhaps even state and national boundaries. In each instance, enlightened and ethical human resources are integral to fulfilling the mission of being a good global citizen.
At this point, careful readers might be thinking, “While healthcare facilities do have some social responsibilities, how do they relate to the work of Central Service managers? The answer to this question addresses at least two issues:
All healthcare managers and many citizens in every community are well aware of concerns that patients receive the best possible healthcare, the financial implications of this goal, and the impact of governmental concerns and regulations that extend significantly beyond the purpose of this article: to address human resources concerns of healthcare social responsibility. However, without effective Central Service employees and staff members in all other departments of the facility, the proper medical care can not be delivered, and the facility can not meet its social responsibility obligations. Therefore, it is not a stretch to state that Central Service managers help their employer to attain social responsibility goals as they eliminate discrimination, promote employee health and safety, advocate for diversity, respect union rights, if applicable, and otherwise practice effective human resources skills. Managers must effectively recruit, train, retain, and motivate the most qualified staff members. In the context of Central Service, they must effectively manage to best assure that there will always be knowledgeable, trained, and motivated staff members to deliver products and services to their healthcare peers who directly serve the patients and the community.
Figure 1 shows the relationship between healthcare facility employees, including those in the Central Service department, and the attainment of a facility’s social responsibilities.
As seen in Figure 1, the actions of a facility’s managers, including those in Central Service, directly impact employees. They, in turn, influence the delivery of products and services which enable the facility to fulfill its societal responsibilities. The supervisory knowledge, skills, and abilities of managers influence their leadership of employees, and an ethical decision-making process is integral to the relationship between managers and those whom they manage.
An article discussing ethics was written for this column in 2003.3 It included a list of questions that one could pose to help determine whether potential decisions will be ethical. Each of these questions can be slightly paraphrased to help Central Service managers consider the worth of assisting their facilities with social responsibilities:
Everyone benefits when organizations assume social responsibility for their actions. Is this factor the primary concern of a person applying for a position in the Central Service department of a healthcare facility? Probably not. Do those employed by an organization “feel good” when they hear and/or read positive things about their organization? Probably so. Would employees of a healthcare organization like to contribute their time and even money to worthwhile causes sponsored or coordinated by their employer? Many would. You can see, then, that the extent of a facility’s social responsibility is impacted by the management of its human resources. Central Service managers can make a difference in the lives of many of their stakeholders. The best managers recognize this and expand their definition of ethics to include the dimension of social responsibility.
This column was written by Jack Ninemeier, Ph.D, CHA of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University. Dr. Ninemeier is the editor of Central Service Technical Manual (5th Edition), Supervision Principles: Leadership Strategies for Healthcare Facilities (2nd Edition), and Material Management and the Healthcare Industry, all published by IAHCSMM.