Abstract: Caring versus Competition: Tensions Emerging in Hospital Mission Statements

◆ Hannah King, University of Alabama

Rationale: The mission statement of an organization is accepted as a way to define the existence of the organization. Researchers have created a large body of literature to demonstrate the importance for an organization, regardless of industry, to have a defined reason for existence. These statements are referred to as missions, visions, goals, or objectives, and much work is put in to make them identifiable within the company. In this study, the researcher seeks to analyze the content of mission statements within a region (Southeastern United States) using grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) to determine the commonalities, content, and themes. In a region where healthcare is critical to employment, quality of life, and rural access to care, these statements provide a concise look at how organizations approach the multiple pressures incumbent upon their existence.

Method: The study involved analyzing the mission statements of hospitals that received the Joint Commission’s “Gold Seal of Approval” (N = 73), a certification reserved for hospitals that demonstrate an excellence in providing services. Using information publicly available, mission statements from each hospital were identified and collected. Of the hospitals receiving the Gold Seal, 74% (N = 54) had mission or vision statements available on websites or public relations documents. These statements were then converted to text, and the researcher removed identifying information removed. Using word counts and word frequency analysis with NVivo 12 to create numeric statistics, the data were reviewed until saturation was reached and a codebook could be constructed.

Results: Statements were found to vary in name (mission, vision, culture, passion, purpose, values, or a combination of these) and length (14 – 294 words) but were consistent in commonly used language (care/caring, health, patients, community, quality) and location on their website (under “About Us”).

When the statements were reviewed further information, three major themes emerged: directed focus, brand equity, and philanthropic mission. Each mission or purpose statement had at least one directed audience in mind that was identified in the declaration. Minor themes were identified; ‘focus’ was divided into individuals or groups as well as retention or recruitment. Most surprising was the theme of ‘brand equity’ as the majority of mission statements communicated the organization’s desire to promote their value to a potential customer.

Implications: There are several important implications for this study. First is the shifting intent of mission statements from defining existence to exemplifying a niche in the market. These brief messages that define organizational important and distinction have now grown to communicate perceived quality. This shift is identified (Aaker, 1991) as a move from organizational communication and internal audiences to public relations and advertising to external audiences. The second implication of the study identifies the tension apparent in the duplicity of mission statements. Brief messages are communicating to multiple audiences, causing conflicting understanding about the actual mission of the organization. This duality has not been previously identified, therefore this study provides application to healthcare professionals and healthcare public relations officials to critique their own crafted statements for clarity.