I just finished a mock assessment for a hospital that wants to achieve the Baby-Friendly designation. I am serving as a consultant for the hospital, and my assessment helps to identify flaws that the staff and administration can address, before the official baby-friendly assessors come. (I was an “official” Baby-Friendly assessor at one time, and find that consulting–improving care, supporting hospital success–is personally rewarding!)
I came away from this task on a huge high. I felt like I had really helped the Director, the lactation consultants, and many people on the staff to understand the biggest weaknesses in their care practices, and I gave them some very specific ideas on how to start turning those weaknesses into strengths. The Director said that after my feedback, she had a better idea of where to put her time and money to get things done. That’s a good feeling for her, and it’s a good feeling for me, too.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that people who are trying to earn their Baby-Friendly designation often spend more time looking at their “to-do” lists than at the big picture of the Baby-Friendly program. See, that’s the thing: Baby-Friendly is, in the broad sense of the word, a program. Unlike a task, a program can be easily and distinctly separated into long-term phases. Unlike a project, a program has largely intangible benefits; the “deliverables” are not a tangible piece of equipment or a sheaf of papers. Programs result in outcomes or impact. Although the outcomes certainly could be tangible, they are more often about a cultural change, or a shift in the way an organization works. Most certainly, then, efforts to achieve the Baby-Friendly designation must be program-driven. When hospitals get hung up on tasks or projects, they won’t be successful–or they’ll be very slow–in achieving the Baby-Friendly designation.
As a consultant for hospitals that are trying to achieve their Baby-Friendly designation, I feel I bring something important: the perspective of program development and evaluation. Few nurses–and even fewer lactation consultants–have any experience with developing or evaluating programs. I think that’s why I feel that I can bring fresh insights to their efforts. Could they do it without me? Sure. But I truly believe I can help them to reach their goal sooner, and with less expenditure of time and money.