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9 Effective Ways to Communicate Your Breastfeeding Policy, Part 2

There are a variety of ways to communicate to get your staff to participate in your breastfeeding policy.

In this post, I’ll focus on how to get your staff to participate in your breastfeeding policy, while in the first part of this series, I focused on the need to plan a multifaceted approach to communicating the new breastfeeding policy you developed as part of Step 1 of the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”

Communicating the breastfeeding policy is a big deal. After all, the word comes from the Latin word communicare, which means “to share, join, unite, participate in.” In other words, “communicating” doesn’t mean issuing an edict and walking away. Through the process of communicating the policy, we must draw staff in, engage them, and get them to participate.

Read on for some nitty-gritty, practical tips for sharing your policy in a way to get your staff to participate and be engaged.

3. Incorporate many interactive elements

For communication to be a two-way exchange, you’ll need to use interactive elements and some creative maneuvering. Get your staff to participate in spreading the word. Opportunities for structured (e.g., surveys) or unstructured (e.g., suggestion boxes) feedback are all ways of facilitating participation and getting buy-in from the staff.

Get staff to participate

Encourage staff to participate in the launch, or in spreading the news about the new policy. Do you have someone with artistic ability? Ask her to create a poster. Do you have someone who enjoys crunching numbers? Ask her to join the Quality Committee that will be monitoring implementation of the policy. Do you have someone who likes to organize things? Ask her to organize some games or quizzes.

Make program visually prominent

Here’s another possibility: Showcase successes in a publicly-viewed place. For example, make a poster that says something like “___ days in a row of all healthy babies being discharged without any supplementation!” (Each day, someone will fill in the number of consecutive days.) If “all” seems unrealistic for your location, choose a smaller percentage. The idea is to set a high but obtainable goal consistent with your new policy, and to keep the trend going.

Consider a prize if the streak continues for a certain number of days of your facility has only one unit, and if your facility has multiple units, consider a bit of friendly competition for staff to participate in against each other. (Be careful, though. If the patient population on one unit is significantly different, or the mothers’ or infants’ medical needs are significantly different, then it’s not a fair contest.) This last suggestion is just one of many ways you can introduce an element of fun.

Make it fun

Other possibilities include quizzes, or “treasure hunts” for staff participate in finding breastfeeding-related resources either in-house or in the community. You could have a contest, comparing the percentage of clients who report exclusive breastfeeding at a 2-week follow-up call after discharge from one unit with those who from a different unit. Another might be the person or the unit that could submit the largest number of “stump the expert” questions to the lactation consultant, using clinical problems that they encountered but were unable to solve without help.

In any of these games, it’s critical to make sure that the rules are clear, evenly applied to all, and have a clearly-communicated start and end date. Above all, make sure that any game or competition has a built-in incentive, and that it doesn’t negatively affect clinical care.

Games and quizzes can be a great way to make sure people know their stuff and have fun at the same time in order to get staff to participate. Use professionally-written test questions that cannot be answered by guessing, and that support Baby-Friendly practices. (We have quality scenario-based, real-life online questions for sale; call our office.) Offer an incentive to the game winner, or quiz high-scorer. Consider money, or a store gift card. If possible, ask a local nail salon or spa to donate a service as the prize! This is a great win-win-win! The hospital wins because they are giving away a service that most nurses love. The nurse wins, because she gets a free manicure or massage. The salon wins because it gets an opportunity to advertise to hundreds of local women at very little cost!

Creative prizes

If none of those monetary ideas appeal to you or your team, try something that I used years ago and it was a huge hit: Time off! In those days, we offered 2 weekends off. Since all staff were required to work every other weekend, the winner could conceivably have every weekend off for an entire month. In the summer, that’s a huge benefit. My staff worked hard to try to win that!

If you think about it there are only two ways to capture attention: the carrot method, and the stick method. The carrot method feels better for everyone, and it is often more effective in getting your staff to participate.

4. Survey the staff routinely

Schedule and carry out staff surveys on a regular basis. Use non-threatening questions, such as, “Which of the Ten Steps is most difficult for you to carry out?” Or, “Which of the Ten Steps is, in your opinion, getting the most resistance from patients?” (Resistance from patients tells you that your problem is unlikely to be related to staff compliance or staff development.)

Determine method

You can send the surveys by email, or distribute a paper version. Also, if you have the ability to do a pop-up survey with built-in recurrent options, that’s great.

But if you don’t like this idea, you could conduct short interviews with the staff, but it’s likely that you won’t be able to get all of your staff to participate — especially those who work straight nights, straight weekends, or per diem. And, the people who are interviewed might be less forthcoming in their responses face-to-face

When surveys are part of the routine, you staff understands that your agenda is not to make their lives miserable with them, rather that your agenda is to accomplish an outcome (improving exclusive breastfeeding rates) that is not negotiable. And that you are willing to provide help for them to do what is expected — whether it means more staff training, or something else.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series to learn more effective strategies in communicating your breastfeeding policy. For more information on BFHI, click here.

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