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Team Culture Case Report: Medical Associates Clinic

“That's the reason I came to work today” is a phrase you'll hear often at the Medical Associates Clinic in Dubuque, IA. Amid the myriad tasks of primary care—charting, coding, paperwork, and phone calls—it is easy to lose track of the real value of work. To help prevent this, the team at Medical Associates Clinic has started to share the experiences that made them think, “that's the reason I came to work today.” Sharing these stories is one way to remain centered in the meaning and the mission of work and to build a team that shares similar values.

A few months ago, a patient told internist Christine Sinsky, MD, that she almost didn't keep her follow-up appointment for depression. She changed her mind when she remembered how kind one of Dr. Sinsky's nurses, Rachel, had been to her two weeks earlier during the rooming and preparation process. Prior to that first visit, in the mini-huddle, Rachel told Dr. Sinsky that this was a new patient here for headache and added, “She seems depressed.” Rachel had gone deeper into the history and asked the patient if anyone had been hurting her. The patient acknowledged that she was the victim of domestic abuse. Rachel gathered the referral information for the local domestic violence center and had it ready to share with the patient during her visit. With this preparation, Dr. Sinsky was in a much better position to care for this patient than if she had just walked into the room cold. The patient's care was a team effort.

Dr. Sinsky likes to catch her staff doing a good job and publicly compliment them. During a break when all the nurses were together, Dr. Sinsky shared the story of this patient's gratitude for Rachel's kindness and the impact Rachel had on the patient's decision to return to the practice. Rachel said that when the patient told her the same thing, she responded, “You were the reason I came to work that day. And you are the reason I came to work today.” Rachel went on to explain, “Every day I try to find one encounter that is ‘the reason I came to work today'—one interaction that is particularly meaningful.” Now, when one of the members of the team feels especially good about how a patient has been served, how an interaction went, or an expression of kindness from a patient, it is shared with the team as “the reason I came to work today.”

Dr. Sinsky noticed an improvement in performance since her team started sharing these stories. They all have a little more compassion, a greater willingness to go the extra mile for a patient, and a stronger sense of purpose in their vocation. This has led to a stronger culture of teamwork that is grounded in the team's common vision of providing the best possible care to their patients.

*Disclaimer: Printed with permission from Family Practice Management.

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