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A Guide to Crafting Great Healthcare Mission, Vision, & Values Statements

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Mission, vision, and values statements allow healthcare organizations to determine what, exactly, they aim to accomplish and how they can provide the standard of care their patients deserve.

Each type of statement serves a separate function, but they can seem similar. In this guide, we'll help you understand their purpose and key differences by highlighting examples of each.

What Are Mission, Vision, & Values Statements?

First, we'll get started with basic definitions:

  • Mission Statement: A mission statement is an explanation that focuses on the present. What does your organization aim to accomplish in the here and now?
  • Vision Statement: While mission statements are all about now, your vision statement highlights where your organization will be in the future. You might not fulfill the terms of your vision just yet, but you aspire to eventually reach such lofty goals.
  • Values Statement: Which qualities are prioritized by your organization? These philosophical ideals form the heart of your values statement. Typically, this consists of several subsections highlighting key descriptors such as "compassion," "cultural sensitivity," or "innovation."

Why Are Mission, Vision, & Value Statements Important?

What is your healthcare organization's core identity? If you've yet to define it, you'll struggle to control the narrative. This, in turn, makes it difficult to get both patients and promising employees through the door. By outlining your mission, vision, and values, you can develop a blueprint to guide both long-term initiatives and day-to-day concerns.

The following are a few of the most compelling reasons why mission, vision, and values statements warrant so much consideration:

1. They help patients determine where to seek care.

Today's patients are discerning and have high expectations regarding the level of care they expect to receive from the clinics or hospitals they visit. Beyond this, they may prefer a specific type of bedside manner or integration of advanced technology. These and other considerations can instantly be conveyed in mission, vision, and value statements so patients know which facilities are best suited to their unique needs.

2. They help employees determine where to work.

In addition to guiding patients, mission, vision, and value statements can help many types of employees determine whether they'll fit into the workplace culture of any given facility. They should understand what your organization represents before they apply or interview.

3. They help ensure ethical care is provided.

It is your organization's responsibility to abide, not only by a societally determined standard of care, but also to do so in an ethically sound way. Such considerations are especially noteworthy among religious institutions, where phrases such as "promoting reverence for life" can have a huge influence on who receives which types of treatments and how that care is delivered. A report by the AMA Journal of Ethics reminds us that such directives could potentially "restrict healthcare service delivery." To that end, organizations must be "honest and transparent about [their] mission and the ways it might affect patients."

4. They help improve patient outcomes by creating a mission-driven culture.

A compelling mission and vision statement can ignite passion among employees. As Jeff Selander, of HealthCatalyst, explained, this type of organizational culture "engages the right people, in the right place, at the right time, to do the right thing." The result? Healthier patients and greater vitality in the community at large.

Examples of Healthcare Mission Statements

Given all that mission statements are charged with accomplishing, the prospect of developing one that fits your organization may seem daunting. Thankfully, a variety of excellent examples provide inspiration.

Keep in mind that each mission statement must be carefully cultivated based on the realities of the organization it describes. What works well for the hospitals and departments referenced below could be all wrong for your organization.

St. David's Healthcare exemplifies the ideal with a mission statement that is simple, but highly meaningful: "To provide exceptional care to every patient every day with a spirit of warmth, friendliness, and personal pride."

The need for specificity at the departmental level can be seen in an example statement referenced by the American Academy of Pediatrics: "Our mission is to provide our patients with the best and most comprehensive pediatric care possible from birth until 21 years of age."

Targeted language can also be found in the Massachusetts General Hospital's Department of Neurology's mission statement, which references a commitment to being the "preeminent academic neurology department in the U.S. by providing outstanding clinical care while rapidly discovering new treatments to reduce and eliminate the devastating impact of neurological disorders."

Meanwhile, the same hospital's Center for Community Health Improvement keeps its mission statement simple: "To improve the health and well-being of the diverse communities we serve."

The importance of mission statements within smaller healthcare organizations is evident on the website for the DeNiel Foot and Ankle Center. There, the simple but effective mission statement is, "It is our mission to exceed expectations by providing exceptional foot and ankle care to our patients and at the same time build relationships and trust with them."

Examples of Healthcare Vision Statements

As mentioned previously, a desirable vision statement will highlight ideals at which a given organization hopes to arrive in the future. These may seem ambitious, especially as compared to the mission statement.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)'s CCHI exemplifies the forward-thinking nature of the vision statement by expressing a desire for a future with "healthy, safe, and thriving communities where all people have equitable access to employment, food, education, housing, and a high-quality health care system."

In Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) aims for lofty ideals with a vision statement that explains, "We aspire to be one of the nation's leading university hospitals that captures the synergy in being both an excellent academic institution and an innovative, community-oriented public teaching hospital."

While it's arguable as to whether the UNMH can be described as a national leader, the purpose of this vision statement is to ensure that all understand this is what the hospital wants for its future.

Similarly, the website for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium identifies an ambitious vision: "Alaska Native people are the healthiest people in the world." There is never any question as to what this organization wants to achieve.

Examples of Healthcare Values Statements

Many healthcare organizations prefer to outline values statements in simple, easy-to-scan bullet points. For example, the aforementioned neurology department from Massachusetts General Hospital highlights priorities like "rapid translation of laboratory advances to patient care" and the "seamless integration of research" in a list of bullet points under the heading "We Value."

The CCHI from MGH delivers an even more streamlined approach, with bullet points referencing the following core values:

  • Social, economic, and racial justice
  • Health care as a human right
  • Diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Education for all
  • Equity
  • Partnership and collaboration

Some hospitals mention core values within their mission statements. Chicago's St. Bernard Hospital, for example, explains that its mission "calls us to care for the sick and promote the health of the residents in the community while witnessing the Christian values of respect, dignity, caring, and compassion for all persons."

Later, St. Bernard Hospital expands on these concepts under subheadings accompanied by images that convey each value. With compassion, this means a "respectful, caring and supportive environment by listening to others with empathy and sensitivity, respectful of their feelings." Under the respect category, the hospital references an intention to acknowledge every patient's "unique worth and diversity as a human being. We will be sensitive to their right to privacy and confidentiality of their personal information."

Definitions of specific values can also be seen on the website for Seattle Children's Hospital, which provides a full paragraph to describe each value and how it's acted upon. With the stated value of collaboration, this means working "in partnership with patients, their families, staff, providers, volunteers, and donors. This spirit of respectful cooperation extends beyond our walls to our business partners and the community." Under innovation, the page explains that "because innovation springs from knowledge, we foster learning in all disciplines."

How to Create & Use Mission, Vision, & Value Statements in Your Healthcare Organization

Now that you understand why mission, vision, and value statements work and what they look like at different types of facilities, it's time to put that knowledge into action. This means you’ll have to dig deep to determine the current status of your organization's culture and how this can be shaped with the right statements.

Tip #1: Determine where you stand.

Keep in mind that you already hold values—they just might not be properly defined or understood on an organizational level. To get a better sense of your current mission, vision, and values (and how these might change) consider your purpose. Why does your organization exist? Which types of services do you currently provide?

Feedback from patients and staff members can also help you determine the current status of your organization as it relates to your mission, vision, and values. To begin, perform an assessment to determine perceptions among patients and employees. Which descriptors do they reference? They can verify your strengths or highlight whether any weaknesses might prevent your mission or values from being fully accurate.

Tip #2: Avoid jargon.

As you draft various statements, aim for simple, precise language that prospective patients or employees can easily understand. Confusing medical terminology should be avoided, even when describing missions, visions, or values for specific departments.

The Fairview system accomplishes this with a short and sweet mission statement: "Fairview is driven to heal, discover, and educate for longer, healthier lives."

Tip #3: Get employees aligned.

Once you've developed statements for your mission, vision, and values, it's time to get employees on board. Experts at Insperity reference this in the context of a marching band, where instrumentalists look to the drum major for direction.

Similarly, employees will be happy to align their work with your mission, vision, and values if they understand how these work—and if they see them in action. To keep these essentials top-of-mind, reference them in company-wide meetings, employee newsletters, and when helping staff members set individual goals.

Your healthcare organization's structure and culture can determine your ability to deliver high-quality, compassionate care. This, in turn, plays heavily into patient outcomes, employee satisfaction, and public perception. All this can be boosted under the guidance of strategic mission, vision, and values statements. Any effort you place into developing statements that accurately convey your organization's goals will be well-rewarded.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, the overarching aim of modern healthcare organizations seems simple: provide quality care for patients. Take a closer look, however, and it quickly becomes evident that this is more complicated than it seems.

What constitutes "quality" may vary dramatically from one institution to the next, with factors such as the types of patients and their respective conditions coming into play.


Image courtesy of iStock.com/Drepicter


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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