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A protocol for better board behaviour

A protocol for better board behaviour

Upskilling across the boards

Effective health service boards keep our hospital systems running. Problems at the board level can impact the rest of the health service, even to the point where lives are lost. But how do board members learn the skills needed to be effective and challenge themselves and each other? Many documents describe the roles of health service board members, but there are few opportunities to practice difficult conversations in a controlled environment.

BehaviourWorks, working with the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority, designed a randomised controlled trial to test an intervention around simulation-based training to help improve board members’ skills.

The protocol for the trial has been published in BMJ Open, which you can view here. Entitled ‘Tell Us Where It Hurts’, the trial involved a randomised controlled trial comparing boards undertaking training to those without.

A workshop team of a facilitator and an actor worked with different healthcare boards to identify behaviours which could impact the effective running of a board, and then came up with strategies to help improve board members’ perceived skill and confidence in communicating effectively during board meetings.

Each participant had their time in the ‘hot seat’, where they would deal with the difficult communication challenge (either pre-prepared or created in situ). The facilitator would collaborate with the entire group to help elicit different strategies for the participant to try out. Board members got the chance to learn by both doing and reflecting on themselves and others.  

Surveys were conducted before and after the workshops in order to measure the influence of the intervention. This is the first known study of its kind to test an intervention to improve a health service board’s functioning. It was developed with extensive evidence and stakeholder input and may help to increase board members’ ability to effectively communicate and hold hospital staff to account during board meetings.

*Note that the health service board intervention has now concluded and a video with the actor can be found on this page.

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