- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Leaders at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services plan to use the results of a survey of front-line employees to improve the workplace.

Vanderbilt University professor Michael Cull, who developed the survey, told The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/1iwHzfc) that it found caseworkers across the state consistently work overtime and don’t usually recognize how fatigue and stress affect their decisions.

Cull said there’s more risk associated with decisions that are made when workers try to “power through” stress and fatigue.

DCS Deputy Commissioner of Child Safety Scott Modell says he wants employees to be at their best when making critical decisions to protect children.

He says the agency will work on correcting problems by improving communications between employees and supervisors in addition to identifying things that work well.



“We need to start on how we change this forever,” said DCS Commissioner Jim Henry, who embraced the survey as a step toward positive change.

Former commissioner Kate O’Day initiated the survey in 2012, though she noted that the results may not be “pretty.”

The survey drew responses from 70 percent of workers. Its 41 questions attempted to gauge the relationship between workers and supervisors and note factors that cause problems including burnout.

“We’ve moved beyond a blame culture, where we won’t ever really know what’s going on,” said Tom Cheetham, DCS deputy commissioner of child health. “Our staff - everyone - needs to believe, not by our words, but our actions, that we’re not looking to blame.”

DCS plans to make changes due to findings in the survey. For example, caseworkers in Davidson County will soon begin their mornings with a “huddle” in which they’ll talk about the challenges for that day.

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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