Thursday, February 24, 2011

Taking Joy in Caring for a Community

I frequently ask the question, “what if it was your daughter.” Well, for one family that was recently treated at GBMC, it was their daughter, a toddler named Ellie, who was cared for by Dr. Allison Jensen, a pediatric ophthalmologist. The parents sent me a heartfelt letter that demonstrates how a physician, who truly takes joy in her job of caring for people, can make such a difference, both clinically and emotionally. Physicians and healthcare providers such as Dr. Jensen are why our community embraces GBMC as “their” hospital. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
“…Dr. Allison Jensen has become one of our, and our daughter’s, favorite people. A few months ago, our toddler developed a growth on the edge of her lower eye lid. The growth doubled in size rather quickly so we made arrangements with Dr. Jensen to have it removed. Weeks later, when we arrived for the surgical appointment, Dr. Jensen was alarmed at the rate in which the spot had grown. She suggested we postpone the surgery until a later date when a plastic surgeon could be present to assist. That was a Friday, and she cleared her schedule the following Monday to fit us in. The biopsy of the growth revealed cancer – squamous cell carcinoma – which was highly unusual in someone our daughter’s age.
While the success of the operation and speed of recovery obviously pleased my wife and I, what really astounded us was the manner in which Dr. Jensen conducted herself throughout the procedure and the events that followed. She made it clear that we were to call her with any questions – even giving us her personal cell phone number and fielding calls on a Sunday. Dr. Jensen took it upon herself to not only send out another sample for a second opinion, but to personally transport a sample to Philadelphia in order to have it tested by a physician she knew and trusted... Dr. Jensen’s caring and gentle delivery of the results went a long way in helping us deal with the reality of the situation.  
…All of Ellie’s follow-up appointments have been encouraging, so we are breathing easier now. You are quite fortunate to have a physician such as Dr. Allison Jensen working at GBMC. She is truly an asset to her practice, your hospital and the profession…”

Dr. Allison Jensen is recognized
for her outstanding care by
Dr. Chessare at a recent
Leadership conference.

Dr. Jensen serves as a shining example of our Greater values and of a healthcare professional who truly cares about her patients and quality outcomes.  Individuals like Dr. Jensen are why GBMC is such a big part of the community. 
In fact, having been in the not-for-profit healthcare world for many years, it’s astounding to me the sense of ownership our community feels for GBMC.  Of course, our mission is to serve the community – our patients always come first.
This mission is brought to life by people like Charlie Fenwick, our Chairman of the Board, and Harry Johnson, our in-coming Chairman, as well as generous individuals like Sandra and Malcolm Berman, who help make GBMC the center of the community. Last week, I had the opportunity to join Drs. John Saunders, Rob Brookland and Gary Cohen at a special gathering that the Bermans’ hosted in Florida where more than 70 people gathered to learn more about how they could help support GBMC. Some of those present at this event were current donors and others were there to learn more about GBMC’s cancer program, the hospital as a whole, and how they could help secure a successful future for GBMC so we can continue to serve our neighbors with the best clinical outcomes, best care and most advanced technology. I have to say, Sandy and Malcolm Berman really get it. Sandy comes to the hospital several hours a week to actively participate in a variety of meetings. She truly cares about our future.
It’s people like the Berman’s and our Board members, as well as physicians like Dr. Allison Jensen, who truly understand what it means to serve the community. For this commitment, I am most thankful.
Stay tuned for next week’s post – we will continue to celebrate the success of those who have embraced the culture of patient safety here at GBMC…

P.S. – As an update on the topic of cleanliness, Judie Kusiolek, Mike Forthman, Keith Poisson and I recently toured the facility to get a firsthand account of where we stand with cleanliness…I believe we’re getting there, but there’s still work to be done. The issue of cleanliness isn’t going to fade away, we’re on it…and I hope you all are too.  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Don’t ‘Check Your Brain at the Door’

It’s often difficult in large organizations to get people into the mindset of “How can I do this better?” People have a natural tendency to hold back because they believe they are just one small piece in a really large organization and ask, “How can I make any difference?”  But, the organizations that are truly ahead of the curve are the ones that figure out how to get people thinking, “This is how we did things yesterday, but how might we do things better today?”  The answer to this question is this – empowerment.
In 1995, when I was at Albany Medical Center in New York, I had this very conversation with a small group of people about how we can increase performance improvement throughout the organization.  A colleague of mine suggested I pay a visit to the new Hannaford Brothers food warehouse that was just built in New York. (Hannaford Brothers is a large chain of supermarkets in New York State and the Northern New England region.) A food warehouse, I thought? What does this have to do with improving the operations of a hospital? But, I suspended disbelief and visited this warehouse. When I called one of the warehouse managers to request the tour of the facility, he candidly said, “You don’t need to meet with me, you should meet with one of the warehouse staff.” He went on to explain to me that he’d been with the company for 20 years. He started in a store and later moved up to the ranks of manager. About the way in which the company valued the input of its people, he explained, “When this new organizational mindset took over, I realized I had been checking my brain at the door for the first 12 years.” He said it was like a new day when management started encouraging him, and all employees, to redesign the way the company was working.
So, instead of meeting with the warehouse manager, I met the guy driving the forklift who enthusiastically showed me around. And what he showed me were walls of run charts created by self directed work teams who were fixing the way things ran. It was the people who actually did the work, and who recognized what processes did or did not work, who were empowered to redesign the process to improve performance in the company. It was clear that he understood that part of his job was to make things better. And, all of these employees really were improving the system!
Several weeks after my visit to the Hannaford food warehouse, my wife came home one night from a new supermarket that had just opened up on the other side of town. She was truly amazed at what a wonderful experience she had there. She explained that upon walking in and making her way down the aisles about eight different employees asked how they could help her. And at the checkout, when the line grew to more than two customers, they opened up another check-out line. The new store was a Hannaford supermarket.  The very next day I called the manager of the food warehouse I had visited and told him about my wife’s terrific experience at one of their stores. I asked him, “What is your secret?” And you know what? He wouldn’t tell me. He said that the way they train their people is their strategic advantage.
But I did figure out the secret. How organizations truly thrive is by activating people and making sure that they get the company’s vision and are using continuous improvement in their work. Continuous improvement starts with:
1.       A focus on who it is that you are serving (patients and their families)
2.       Encouraging your people to design the systems to get ever better performance
3.       Measurement – it’s the only way you’ll know if you’re getting better performance
4.       Teamwork
5.       Empowerment
That’s the science of improvement and success. And it’s a course of action all of us at GBMC should continue to strive for. We must all have the mindset that we can make things better and feel that it is our job to create positive change.

How do you empower others to make a change? Have you felt empowered to make a difference? I’d love to hear your stories on actions you have taken, or would like to take, to improve the GBMC experience for our patients, as well as each other…

Friday, February 11, 2011

Those Who Inspire a Better World Are Right Here at GBMC

 Over the course of my career, there have been many people who have inspired me with their passion for creating positive change and their quest to improve the lives of others and the community in which we live. I’m proud to say that I work with many remarkable individuals right here at GBMC who also serve as inspirations to us all. In fact, six GBMC employees and volunteers were just named Healthcare Heroes finalists, the Daily Record’s annual recognition of individuals “who embody the spirit of the word ‘hero’ - men and women who are making a positive impact on the lives of others.” All of these team members go above and beyond the call of duty every day, exemplifying the GBMC values we hold dear.
I’d like to personally congratulate and thank: Abby Dentry, Donna Lewis, Cheryl McCarus, Kathy Ruane, Barbara Tassone, and Lee Hoyt and Peggy Walton, our finalists, as well as Dr. Fred Chan, Barbara Messing and Cindy Ross, RN, who were also nominated for this recognition.

I’d also like to share with you excerpts from the nominations of the finalists so you can get a feel for just how special these GBMC “heroes” are.

Abby Dentry, NICU

Abby Dentry, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, NICU – “Abby has a healing hand and a caring heart for the premature and sick infants in the NICU. She works in the NICU on a regular basis coming in as early as 4 a.m. to prepare for her shift that doesn’t start until 7 a.m. She does everything with a smile. Her love for nursing and for the Neonatal Unit cannot be measured. Abby is loved by everyone she works with and is revered by all of her colleagues. Parents of tiny, critically ill patients find her comforting. Her soft voice is reassuring even in times of crisis.”
Donna Lewis, Oncology Support

Donna Lewis, RN, Director, Cancer Patient Support Services – “Donna and her team completed a major initiative this past year in the creation of a true survivorship program for cancer patients completing treatment at GBMC’s Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute. This model of exceptional patient support service has been identified by a national healthcare review group as a model program for supporting cancer patients once they have completed treatment, adding quality to their lives as well as their family.”
Cheryl McCarus, Orthoptist

Cheryl McCarus, Orthoptist – “Cheryl is an outstanding teacher, mentor and colleague who teaches not only about treating patients, but caring for them. [Many of] the patient’s she sees suffer from a wide range of neurologic conditions leading to visual problems. They come into the office crying and in despair worried their last hope will be yet another treatment that does not work. With some simple measurements and complex manipulation of their glasses Cheryl is able to give someone back the ability to read, to see clearly, or to stop seeing everything double. Patients leave crying out of joy.”
Kathy Ruane, Senior Services
Outreach program

Kathy Ruane, RN, Senior Services Community Outreach Program – “In 2007, GBMC’s Community Benefit Committee began planning a Senior Services Community Outreach Program…Kathy worked to get this program started for people in need. Kathy visits six facilities -  five senior and disabled independent apartment buildings, and the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, a shelter for the poor and needy. Through this work, Kathy is providing medical care, referrals and resources to the truly underserved and forgotten in our community, taking the time to provide to their medical needs, and then some.”

Barbara Tassone, ANP, BC

Barbara Tassone, ANP, BC, Advanced Radiology – Interventional Radiology – “Barb shows compassion and strength through her daily work. She is known as the go to person in the department. She is always willing to help out whomever she can, whether it is a patient, coworker, visitor or caregiver. She takes her time with each patient she encounters, reassuring them, answering any questions no matter how simple. She is truly a person who cares about the nursing profession and medicine and its ability to help people.”

Lee Hoyt

Peggy Walton
Lee Hoyt and Peggy Walton, Gilchrist Hospice, End-of-Life Doulas – “Lee Hoyt and Peggy Walton are two of the 90 End-of-Life Doulas who serve Gilchrist patients through the all-volunteer program. The volunteer doulas are present for patients and families at the most critical and emotional point in their hospice journeys – immediately prior to death. For those families who cannot be there, the doulas provide a peace of mind that their loved one will not die alone. For those who can, the volunteers provide a calming and supportive presence for both the patient and family. Many have spent six-hour shifts at Gilchrist Center, sitting by bedsides and consoling family members grieving the death that was soon to come.”

We can all learn from those who lead and work to evoke positive change in our world. Let these “Heroes” serve as examples of how our work in healthcare truly touches the lives of so many. These individuals have been empowered to generate change for the better – which is a topic I will explore in more depth in the coming weeks. But I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we can inspire and empower each other to create change and redesign our systems at GBMC? I welcome your comments on this.

P.S. – Thanks to all who commented on last week’s topic of cleanliness and who visited me in the cafeteria to continue the dialogue.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Owning Up to Cleanliness in Your “Home”

Imagine inviting new friends over to your house for a Super Bowl party. Now imagine that your house is littered with random pieces of paper, empty coffee cups or food wrappers. Instead of picking up this trash, you continue to walk by it and just plain ignore that it’s there on the floor. When your new friends arrive to your home can you imagine what their first impression might be? You would probably be embarrassed by the mess as seen through the eyes of your guests.

Well, it’s no different here at GBMC. When patients and visitors enter our “home” their first impression should be one of cleanliness. Because if it were your daughter and she was being admitted to a hospital that was less than clean, it might  send the wrong message about the quality of the care provided. If you’re a parent, you can’t assess the quality of care because you’re not a doctor or nurse, but you can assess the cleanliness of the hospital.
Two weeks ago I came in for a Town Hall meeting at 2:00 a.m. Things were very busy so instead of doing the “town hall,”  I walked throughout the hospital talking to staff.  As I was speaking to staff on one nursing unit that I visited, I was reaching down picking up trash that had not been picked up. Yes, we have to ask our housekeeping staff to mop floors and clean bathrooms and get patient rooms cleaned, but we all have to be a part of the solution too. 

John Green takes pride in keeping GBMC
clean for patients, visitors and staff.
Later that night as I was completing rounds, I was walking down the ED corridor around 2:30 a.m. and encountered a very pleasant employee named John Green, Facilities Project Associate. John was mopping the floor down this expansive stretch of tile hall and I stopped to thank him for keeping this high traffic area of the hospital spotless. He looked at me and said, “Of course, this is the patient’s first impression of GBMC…”
I looked at him and said, “You got it!”  I thank John for recognizing the importance of cleanliness and first impressions, and for taking pride in his work and his workplace.   
I commend our dedicated housekeeping staff for the good work that they do keeping our medical center as clean as possible, but it’s important that we all take ownership of cleanliness.  If you see trash on the floor, please pick it up. If something needs the attention of housekeeping, give them a call.
Cleanliness is not somebody else’s job. Everyone needs to take ownership of the issue. Be proud of where you work and treat GBMC like it is your own home, just like John Green does. Because for so many of us, GBMC is our “home away from home.” Believe me, our patients, visitors and other staff members will thank you for it!
On another note… this week I was discussing with the Employee Relations Council how I might get more people to comment on my blog topics. They suggested that people were “afraid” to put their thoughts in writing for all to see. They suggested that I set aside some time in the cafeteria where people could come up to me and chat if they had time.

So...this coming Monday, February 7, from noon to 1p.m., I will be in the back of the cafeteria. Please come by my table if you have thoughts on this or any blog topic. I hope to see you Monday!

By the way, Raylene Backstrom, Manager of GBMC’s Corner Shop, read my blog post last week which talked about the eye opening book by T.R. Reid - "The Healing of America, The Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer" - and took it upon herself to stock this book in the Corner Shop. Thank you, Raylene! It’s selling for $16 and I encourage you to check it out.