Healthcare organizations are striving to meet legislated and public expectations to include patients as equal partners in their care, and research is needed to guide successful implementation and outcomes. The current research examined the meaning of customer service as related to the culture of care relationships within a Canadian hospital in southeastern Ontario. The goals were to better understand these expectations, develop shared meanings and influence cultural change from the perspective of the organization’s employees about their interactions with patients, families and work colleagues, and to generate ideas and groundswell for change. An ethnographic approach within the critical research paradigm was used over the course of a three phase study, where direct care healthcare providers (Phase 1), mid-level leaders (Phase 2) and senior leaders (Phase 3) volunteered to explore their values, philosophies and suggestions for change in the organization’s care relationships. This paper describes Phase 2 of the overall research project. A mixed methodology was used where mid-level leaders were individually surveyed and then participated in a focus group and/or interview to discuss these concepts. Mid-level leaders indicated that providing excellent customer service was important in their own work with many customers including staff, patients and their families, students, volunteers and outside agencies. They believed that this in turn led to improved partnerships for care, health service transitions and linkages, customer satisfaction and health outcomes. The majority stated that the organization’s culture would support change related to customer service relationships and opportunities for this were explored.


Critical Ethnography, Customer Service, Heath Care Relationships, Hospital Culture, Mixed Methodology, Organizational Change, Patient and Family Centred Care, Relationship Centred Care, Shared Decision Making


The authors gratefully acknowledge the time and contributions extended by all study participants, key informants and the financial and resource support from HealthForceOntario, The Monieson Centre and The School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University.

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