Effective teams are essential in healthcare. Without it, patient care is compromised and hospital accreditation is threatened. In 2010, Hand & Associates was asked to work with a community hospital’s ICU unit to build the unit into a working team around a common goal: Beacon Status.


The ICU of a local community hospital was experiencing staff morale challenges. Nurses, techs and secretaries were often at odds and morale was low. When surveyed, results highlighted a lack of team culture that, while undesired, was share throughout the unit.

Working with a Hand & Associates coach, the ICU Director decided to rally the group of disjointed individuals around a common goal: Beacon recognition. The Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence is an award given by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) to recognize the nation’s top hospital critical care units. This national recognition highlights accomplishments in fostering the highest standards of quality patient care as well as healthy work environments.

The Solution

Once the goal was identified, Hand & Associates selected two coaches with experience in team building in the healthcare industry to develop a unique and specific program that utilized the team building process with the focus on actions to achieve Beacon recognition. “It is important to treat each situation as one of a kind and create solutions that fit the problem, instead of trying to use a cookie cutter approach that might be easier for us, but not be as effective for our client,” said Dr. Lynn Velazquez, Vice President of Client Services.

Strategic Response

The coaches created a day-long seminar that covered a wide range of activities and learning including:

  • Using Crucial Conversations as a standard of communication when the stakes are high and emotions are strong.
  • Understanding roles and responsibilities of the team and setting boundaries and expectations.
  • Developing communication methods to check in when the issues became blurred.
  • Sharing concerns about moving forward with such an ambitious project in the current culture. Moving the culture from where it is to where it can be.

The Results

While the application for Beacon takes several months, the change in communication and efficiency has been noticeable. The team selected leaders in different areas of the application process and invited the wider staff to contribute with ideas and programs. Employee surveys report improvement in morale and collegiality.