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Behind the scenes: learning from SWISS

Read in: Deutsch

Cockpit and cabin crew personnel are not the only professionals to develop and polish their skills at Swiss Aviation Training, SWISS’s own training centre. Employees from other organisations also come for the same reason. Since 2009, the University Hospital of Zurich has had medical personnel from its Heart Centre and Department of Neurosurgery train at SAT in the field of safety and teamwork. And since 2011, staff members of GZO Spital Wetzikon have been trained by the airline’s experts in the field of identifying patient requirements and responding to them in a professional manner.

“A good result does not necessarily mean it was a good process. The guidance and training with Swiss Aviation Training empowered us to introduce the debriefing of our surgery processes into our tight schedule and enforced essential human factors elements.” Prof. Dr med. Luca Regli, Head of Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Zurich

As is the case in the airline business, people are the distinguishing element at hospitals, too. It is vital that they strive to heighten safety in the day-today delivery of their service. Whenever an error occurs it needs to be identified, acknowledged and reported, all in an effort to prevent it from being repeated. Airline professionals are highly sensitized to dealing with errors. Consequently, many other companies, especially from within the health care industry, have benefitted from SWISS’s specific know-how, as have employees from other airline related fields, of course. Many health care experts have long been convinced that the issue of sustainable improvement to patient safety represents a fundamental value in their field. Key aspects in this process are transparency towards errors, nurturing teamwork and communicating openly. This includes contradicting a head doctor, if necessary. Or as one employee summed it up after a course: “Have no fear of the boss!” Another clear statement in this regard is: “Communication is the core of a successful team.”

“Well-mannered people who know how to conduct themselves in challenging situations are at an advantage, professionally as well as privately. We are convinced of this. In SAT we have found the ideal partner to deliver expert and empathetic training for our personnel to that effect.” Barbara Schibli, Head of HRM, GZO Spital Wetzikon

All 850 employees of the GZO Spital Wetzikon, which is responsible for providing health care in canton Zurich’s Oberland region, have turned to Swiss Aviation Training to learn how to enhance their contact with patients on a lasting basis.

Treating patients like passengers

Over the past few decades, patient expectations have changed considerably. They want more from the people attending to them than was the case in the past: in other words, more specialists, more information and more comfort. At the same time, however, patients may feel insecure and have many questions, a situation that poses a challenge to hospital personnel. Here, too, there are parallels to airline passengers. The key factor is always the degree of trust patients / passengers have in the experts to do a good job. It is the skills required to establish this trust that health care professionals want to learn from SAT.

Successful know-how transfer

For SAT, it is paramount that employees gain concrete knowledge from the training courses tailored to their needs. Without doubt, one very important field for GZO is complaint management, the key to which is accepting a complaint without feeling that it represents an attack on a personal level. Further, it is valuable to learn to see the complaint as an opportunity to achieve progress. GZO staff members attending a SAT course learn, above all, to regard the patient as a customer, which is how a patient wishes to be treated. This spirit of customer awareness should begin in the nurses’ station, where reporting needs to show greater sensitivity than referring, rather insensitively, to “the gall bladder in room 217”. Last but not least, hospital staff can also learn about attitude, which goes beyond mere personal appearance. An interim review of the programme’s effectiveness presents a positive sign: GZO personnel have experienced a sharp improvement in service-mindedness and understanding of their role – thanks to airline know-how.

Human Factors & Service Training

Karin Wolf-Schwarz is Head of Human Factors & Service Training at Swiss Aviation Training, a wholly owned subsidiary of Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. In this role she is responsible for Human Factors Training, the goal of which is to sensitise members of staff to customer-minded thinking and behaviour – with examples drawn from their everyday working en- vironment. The range of courses and seminars offered extends from human factor topics (patient safety, communication and team performance) to customer-minded thinking and behaviour, business etiquette and professional attitude and appearance on the job. The programme is geared towards the service sector, such as banking, insurance firms, transportation and health care. The University Hospital of Zurich is among the organisations to have previously benefitted from the STA’s high-quality courses, which are always tailored to the customer’s particular needs.

Text: Tamàs Kiss Photos: Agi Simoes & Andreas Widmer