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What Is the Role of Organizational Culture in Healthcare?

An organizational chart used in healthcare.
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  • Written By: Nicky Sutton
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 March 2014
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Part of organizational psychology attempts to address cultures within organizations, and how they form and change. Organizational culture in healthcare is formed from the collective and overriding attitudes, values and behaviors of workers at all levels. Although subcultures exist within healthcare organizations, culture in general affects the quality of healthcare patients receive due to cultural attitudes to things like cleanliness, timeliness, respect and dignity. Organizational culture also affects an organization's ability to perform and be financially viable. If workers within the culture have an attitude conducive to underperforming and making errors, then the patients and the organization itself will be negatively affected.

Organizational culture varies between different healthcare organizations and practices. The culture within an organization is created by the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the people who work within it. Organizational culture in healthcare cannot be seen or measured but can be experienced by watching and listening to the individuals at work.

An idea of organizational culture can be gauged by the collective extent to which workers are motivated, take risks, communicate and work with others. It is seen in the workers’ attitudes to their colleagues and patients, and their positive or negative behaviors. Organizational culture in healthcare can be described as the collective personality, values and behaviors of the workers within an organization.

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The role of organizational culture in healthcare includes the ability to create a quality healthcare service. Workers who have good personal values about aspects that make good healthcare will naturally exhibit working behaviors conducive to quality healthcare. For example, a manager who believes in the ethos of person centered care, care that revolves around the needs of the individual rather than the needs of the organization, will instill those concepts in subordinates.

Quality healthcare is also influenced by cultural values such as workers’ attitudes toward treating patients, waiting times, dignity and respect. If the culture within the organization is that of hard work, care and respect, then patients will feel the benefits. An organizational culture where it is considered acceptable to leave patients waiting for hours in unsanitary conditions will produce very poor healthcare.

Resources are generally scarce and fiercely contended for in healthcare, hence a culture of efficiency, waste reduction and financial planning will streamline services, reducing costs. Overall performance of healthcare organizations is affected by their organizational culture. Measures such as numbers of patients treated and survival rates can be improved with a culture of hard work, attention to detail and efficiency. Managers can help foster good organizational culture by offering rewards and promotions, promoting teamwork or individual initiative, and having a positive attitude to change and improvement.

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