Leading Positive Change

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemSteve Jobs and many other successful leaders have been quoted on similar words of advice: perseverance is what makes the difference between success and failure. Jobs once said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance…unless you have a lot of passion, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So you’ve got to have an idea or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about; otherwise, you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through.”

At UTMB Health, our passion is providing excellent care and service for our patients and families. This requires dedication, innovative thinking and tremendous talent. Above all, it requires teamwork. Making a difference—even if we’re not in a position that we might perceive as a “commanding” position—doesn’t mean that we are not influential and respected leaders on our teams or that we lack power to make a difference.

Many of you may be familiar with TED Talks. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

I recently watched a TEDx presentation by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author, who is in the business of “sparking change”. Named one of the “50 most influential business thinkers in the world” by Accenture and Thinkers 50 research, Kanter has worked with thousands of leaders in dozens of countries. Her experiences have helped her extract what she believes to be the Six Keys to Leading Positive Change: show up, speak up, look up, team up, never give up, and lift others up. I thought Kanter’s ideas would resonate with all of us, no matter what role we have at UTMB. These are some simple things we can all work toward each day that will not only help us contribute to our teams, but also make us better leaders (formal and informal) and promote our Culture of Trust.postive change

In this inspiring presentation, Kanter illuminates each key by carefully weaving in the stories of influential world leaders, fictional characters, and even ordinary people whose passions have ignited positivity. They are the stories of people who released their ideas into the world, found partners to help advance their goals, and remained motivated in the face of adversity.

How can we lead positively? These six positive things can help us keep things moving in the right direction and are ideas that each of us can use every day at work:

  1. Show up. If you don’t show up, nothing really happens. This means being both physically and mentally present, ready to make a contribution. Be there. Be present. The very fact that you show up and realize that your presence makes a difference is the first key to leadership.
  2. Speak up. No one knows what we’re thinking if we don’t express it! The power of having a voice isn’t simply about words; the power of having a voice is shaping the agenda and shaping issues for others—make people think about things in different ways. The person who is most influential in a discussion is the one who names the problem and gives people an idea for action. In a Culture of Trust, we all feel free to speak up, regardless of our role in the organization, because it is only when we are all willing to share our ideas and speak up that our patients get the best care and our work is best supported.
  3. Look up. Look up at a higher principle—a bigger issue, vision or value. Without values, leadership is hollow. It is important for any leader to know what they stand for and to be able to elevate people’s eyes from the everyday problems that bog us down. We need leaders who help us get above those issues and realize what is truly fundamental in our values. Great companies stand for their mission, vision and values. When their leaders lead, they constantly remind people of a nobler purpose. It isn’t just about making money; it’s about trying to achieve something for the world. We should remind ourselves every day of that for which we stand. Dr. Joan Richardson, our own Chair of Pediatrics, said it best: “We want everyone who works at UTMB to be able to look people directly in the eye and say: ‘The care you will receive at UTMB Health will be the same care I would want my most cherished of loved ones to receive.’”
  4. Team up. Everything flows better with partnerships. Anything worth doing is very difficult to do alone! The best enterprises and ventures are those in which there is a sense of partnership from the very beginning—in addition to having a good value proposition, successful organizations partner faster. There is great value in taking lots of separate efforts, bringing them together and aligning in one big team.
  5. Never give up. Everything can look like a failure in the middle of the process. There’s almost nothing we start that doesn’t hit a roadblock or obstacle. At other times, a project can take longer than we imagined, because we have never done it before! The critics may surface and start attacking: “It doesn’t work!” You may have to go back to the drawing board. If you stop prematurely, it truly will be a failure. However, if you persist and persevere, if you find a way around the obstacles and flexibly redesign, often you can create a success. And it may not always be the success you first imagined. Keep in mind that a lot of technology turns out to be applied in ways we never thought of in the beginning. The ability to hang in there and not give up is a hallmark of leaders. It is also the hallmark of all of you who have worked so hard to bring UTMB back after Hurricane Ike.
  6. Lift others up. Share success. The credit, the recognition and the idea of giving back once you have a success is what creates an environment in which you can do it again, and it builds support. It’s great to feel positive about an achievement, but make sure others feel elevated by what you do as well.


Plate Spinner Extraordinaire!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemThere is an old episode of the Ed Sullivan Show I’ve thought of often, lately. It features a man who may quite possibly be the most famous and skilled multitasker that ever graced the show—a man from Austria, Erich Brenn—plate spinner extraordinaire.

Brenn was a master at the art of plate spinning. His routine consisted of spinning five glass bowls on four foot-long sticks all while spinning eight plates on the same tables. Intermittently, he also managed to balance a tray carrying glasses and eggs and in one swoop would remove one of the trays causing an egg to fall into each glass.

He would also carry a separate tray lined with glasses and spoons in front of them. With a simple flip, every spoon would magically fall into a glass. All of this, of course, was done while keeping those glass bowls spinning atop their sticks. As some sticks began to slow down, it would cause the glass bowls to wobble uncontrollably—often getting a rise out of audiences thinking the bowl would soon smash to a million pieces. Just in the nick of time, Brenn would run in and save the day!

Erich Brenner spinning bowls and plates on the Ed Sullivan show. View the video below.

Erich Brenn spinning bowls and plates on the Ed Sullivan show. View the video below.

With so many initiatives underway as a result of a reforming health care environment and the progressive work taking place at UTMB, I often feel like we are spinning plates and bowls ourselves! Every day, our health care teams work hard to ensure our patients and families receive the highest quality care, and they are continually working to develop more efficient processes and new models of care. Meanwhile, many others are looking at ways we can improve access to our system and enhance communication with our patients and families—all multifaceted initiatives. Other projects include the improvement of documentation and reporting, so we can better understand how to improve care delivery and reduce readmissions. With the time we have left after all of this, we are garnering new accreditations, maintaining current accreditations and preparing for our upcoming Joint Commission reaccreditation survey—just to cite a few examples.

But wait, there’s more! (It’s time to add a little more suspense to our spinning act.) At UTMB, we are working hard to become the preferred health care provider in the region for our patients, partners and referring physicians. Our entire organization is buzzing with new construction and facility renovations. Meanwhile, we’ve been working around the clock to prepare for the launch of our new partnership with Angleton Danbury Medical Center, an exciting opportunity that will help us bring a number of important services to patients throughout our region. Our colleagues in Revenue Cycle Operations have collected over $10 million in additional cash beyond our targets this year. Many of you are involved in Medicaid 1115 Transformation Waiver program projects, and there are many end-of-year tasks to complete, like navigating our way through a new performance evaluation tool, completing annual compliance training and wrapping up the budget.

Just like Erich Brenn spinning plates and bowls on the Ed Sullivan Show, it can sometimes seem like a true marvel that we have accomplished so much at UTMB. Sometimes the plates spin a little faster, sometimes a little slower, but I can certainly say that, whatever challenges we accept, you all rise to the occasion, managing these tasks with grace under pressure and incredible skill. Just as importantly, you do it all through teamwork and realize that we are in this together for the ultimate benefits of our patients and families. Because we move forward with such momentum, I think sometimes it can be easy to forget to reflect on all that we have accomplished within the course of just one year—it is tremendous. With this in mind, I want to be sure you all know that UTMB’s executive leadership and I realize how hard you all work to help UTMB be successful. We thank you for everything you do!

Joint Commission Readiness

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemI was in the process of writing this week’s Friday Flash Report when I received news of an incident that really underscored the importance of always being prepared to spring to action in support of our patients and patient care environments.

During the process of renovating an area on the fifth floor of the John Sealy Annex, a chilled water line broke and caused water to leak through to several areas in the building. Fortunately, UTMB’s Environmental Services and Environment of Care/Utilities Management teams immediately came to the rescue and were able to address and resolve the issue. This is just one example of why always being prepared for unexpected events is so important, and I’d like to give kudos to these teams for their diligence and quick response!

The incident seemed like a perfect introduction to the fact that, although it seems like only yesterday that The Joint Commission (TJC) visited the UTMB campus, nearly 19 months have passed since our last accreditation survey (November 2012), and we are once again in the accreditation survey window.

The unannounced Joint Commission Accreditation survey, which occurs every 18-36 months, is a validation of our organization’s continuous improvement efforts. More importantly, because the accreditation is a nationwide seal of approval that indicates UTMB meets high perfor­mance standards, this is a great opportunity to reinvigorate our current efforts to ensure we are providing the safest possible care for our patients, families and one another.

TJC accreditation can be earned by many types of health care organizations, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, office-based surgery centers, behavioral health treatment facilities, and providers of home care services. The survey process is data-driven, patient-centered and focused on evaluating actual care processes. Surveyors use the tracer methodology by selecting a patient and following the path the patient has taken throughout their hospital stay, observing practices, documentation and the environment, as well as interviewing staff and patients. Surveyors will ask questions about the care each patient received and the steps taken to ensure that it was safe and of high quality.

Areas of focus for the surveyors include both patient-related and organizational functions. Please take a moment to review the brief outline below and be sure to work with your supervisors and colleagues to assure action items in your area are addressed. Our success will require the cooperation and support of every provider and staff member, as well as on everyone’s familiarity with TJC require­ments in their particular area!

The Joint Commission can arrive any time during our survey timeframe. The survey will last five days and your supervisor will keep you informed of survey progress. At the end of the on-site survey, the surveyors will present UTMB with a preliminary report that identifies if there were any standards that were scored as partial or non-compliant, also known as Requirements for Improvement (RFIs).

It is important to note that UTMB’s performance during the survey is made public and available on the Internet. Our competitors, affiliates, referring physicians and – most impor­tantly – our patients and their families will be able to read the details of our performance. However, I prefer to have full confidence in our teams and I believe we will be fully prepared for the survey, because we all share the belief that every UTMB employee at every level is very much responsible for upholding our mission and providing excellent patient care!

For more information on Joint Commission Accreditation preparedness in your area, please visit http://intranet.utmb.edu/qhs/TheJointCommission or contact Janet DuBois, Associate Director of Accreditation. In addition to accreditation participation requirements, the following areas will be considered during The Joint Commission Patient-Centered Accreditation Process:


The patient-focused section includes chapters on Infection Control, Medication Management, Provision of Care, and Rights and Responsibilities.


This section of the CAMH includes chapters on Environment of Care, Emergency Management, Human Resources, Information Management, Leadership, Life Safety, Medical Staff, Nursing, Performance Improvement, and Record of Care.


Identify Patients Correctly

Use at least two ways to identify patients. For example, use the patient’s name and medical record number. This is done to ensure that each patient gets the correct medicine and treatment. It also confirms that the correct patient gets the correct blood when they get a blood transfusion.

Improve Staff Communications

Improve the effectiveness of communication among care­givers (“read back”, timely report of critical values, hand-off communication).

Use Medications Safely

Label all medications before procedures. Reduce the possibility of harm for patients on anticoagulation therapy. Maintain and communicate accurate patient medication information (Medication Reconciliation).

Use Alarms Safely

Make improvements to ensure that alarms on medical equipment are heard and responded to on time.

Prevent Infection

Be vigilant about hand-washing protocol. Use the “proven guidelines” to prevent infection (difficult to treat infec­tions, blood from central lines, after surgery and urinary tract infections caused by catheters).

Identify Patient Safety Risks

Learn which patients are most likely to try and commit self-harm.

Prevent Mistakes in Surgery

Make sure that the correct surgery is done on the cor­rect patient and at the correct place on the patient’s body. Mark the correct place on the patient’s body where the surgery is to be done. Pause before the surgery to make sure that a mistake is not being made. (Take a “time out”).

Thank you for your dedication to delivering excellent care and service to our patients and families!

At UTMB, we demonstrate respect to everyone we meet.

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemI was fortunate to grow up in a home where my mother always emphasized the importance of showing respect to others. She taught my siblings and me that we should be kind and polite to every person we encountered. When she thought that my sister, brother or I were getting a little too arrogant, her favorite phrase was, “Do not get above your raising.” Looking back, this is one of the great life lessons I have learned, especially as I have taken on leadership roles. I learned to appreciate the work of everyone – each person’s contribution is needed to assure that we can provide great care to our patients. I am grateful for a wonderful mother who modeled the way for being courteous, kind and polite in all her interactions.

The word “respect” is often used in our day-to-day conversations, because it encompasses a wide range of actions that show we value and have concern for others. At UTMB, one of our core values is respect. Having respect for someone could mean that we admire them because of their abilities, qualities or achievements; but more importantly, when we demonstrate respect to others, it is because we value their feelings, wishes and rights; we recognize that they are a human being, and we care about how we treat them. Just as with our core value of integrity, when we respect others, we do the right thing by them because we know it is what should be done.

I recently read a story about a business student who did well on her final exam—until she came to the last question: “What is the name of the person who cleans your dorm?” She stared at it in disbelief. How could she be expected to know the answer to that? What did this have to do with her business degree? Finally, she asked the professor if the question really counted toward their final grade. “Of course it does!” he replied. “Most of you dream about becoming the president and CEO of a successful company. But success is a team effort. A good leader takes nothing for granted and recognizes the contributions made by everyone on the team.”

When we recognize the strengths and importance of individuals on our team, people feel valued. When we respect one another, we encourage each other to leverage those strengths. In turn, everyone on the team will naturally want to do their best. In this way, we learn from one another and are then collectively able to achieve what an individual alone could not. This is especially important because we all ultimately work together to serve a single purpose at UTMB: to provide the best service and safest possible care for all of our patient and their families.

Let’s consider for a moment what happens when a team or an organization does not embrace respect. Lack of respect immediately impedes the team’s ability to achieve success. After all, when people believe their managers and colleagues don’t really care, how likely are they to give their best? How often will they feel encouraged to be innovative or to collaborate? We can use the word “respect” each and every day, but if we don’t behave in ways that demonstrate respect, it makes it difficult for others to trust us.

When we treat others with respect, we treat them as we would like to be treated. But respect is also a two-way street—we have to give it to receive it. Just as with any other value we hold in high regard, this may require daily reflection about how well we have demonstrated it. After all, we are all works in progress! Just as acting with integrity inspires others to do the same, treating others with respect encourages others to act in kind ways. By recognizing that both integrity and respect are at the foundation of a Culture of Trust and by working each day to demonstrate them, we take the most important step toward truly achieving it.

We can incorporate simple gestures into our daily routine to show our colleagues, patients and families we value and respect them:

  • Treat all people with courtesy, politeness, and kindness.
  • Include all members of the team in meetings, discussions, training and events. If a goal or activity will impact the work of others, including them in the planning process is important.
  • While not every person can participate in every activity, it is important not to marginalize, exclude or leave any one person out. Provide an equal opportunity for employees who are interested to participate in committees, task forces, or continuous improvement teams. And where participation is not always possible, keep communication flowing so that people know what is being planned.
  • Show respect by listening and engaging during discussions and meetings. We value the thoughts and opinions of others, even when we may think or feel differently. It’s all about the freedom to go into a room, honestly address an issue and—even if no one agrees with you—you know you will be treated with respect.
  • Encourage others to express opinions and ideas.
  • Use people’s ideas to change or improve work. Let your team members know you used their idea, or, better yet, encourage the person with the idea to implement or help implement it.
  • Listen carefully to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint. Try to never speak over or interrupt another person.
    • Do not assume we know what someone is going to say; you may jump into the conversation with the wrong conclusion.
    • Show patience as you listen to another person’s ideas or points of view.
    • Don’t start formulating a response before you hear the person out. The minute you start doing that, you are no longer listening!
  • Do not criticize others over little things; and don’t belittle, judge, demean or patronize. Never disparage or put down people or their ideas. A series of seemingly trivial actions added up over time can leave a bad impression.
  • Call people, write thank you notes, and send emails to acknowledge their achievements—try to do something each day that puts a smile on someone’s face.
  • Never take existing relationships for granted or forget them as you create new relationships.
  • Embrace diversity: treat people the same no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin.

As we show respect for all, we will be living another of UTMB’s important values.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.” ― Laurence Sterne


When an emergency occurs, the time to prepare has passed!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemThis is the end of the first week of Hurricane Season, and I’ve been keeping a closer eye on my fuel gauge. I’ve also started taking additional precautions to prepare for the possibility of tropical weather in our area. The more I add to my emergency kit, the more I wonder why is it only during Hurricane Season that I make these preparations? After all, anyone who has watched the news or has lived in the Houston-Galveston region for any period of time can affirm that weather-related and other adverse events can be unpredictable, and that we should always be prepared in case of an emergency.

Many at UTMB have experienced adverse situations, with Hurricane Ike in September 2008 being one of the most prominently remembered. During these times, many of you were asked to stay onboard to help ensure that our patients would continue receiving the important care they needed, to help protect our facilities and to ensure our operations continued. Fortunately, these circumstances are rare; however, we realize that while we are busy caring for our patients first, it can be stressful because of the concerns we also have for our homes, loved ones, dependents and pets. Likewise, our friends and family will be concerned about our well-being during an emergency, and we should be sure we have communication systems in place to let them know we’re okay.

While UTMB Health is no stranger to storms, there are many additional emergency situations for which we should also be prepared. For example, the 1947 Texas City Disaster is a part of UTMB’s history and an important reminder that technological and accidental hazards are a possibility. There are also situations like pandemic outbreaks that, although seemingly less likely to occur than a weather-related event, would be a mistake to dismiss. Being prepared and ready to adapt to changing circumstances is important—having an emergency preparedness plan in place before something happens is crucial.

Where to begin? Websites like www.ready.gov and www.utmb.edu/emergency_plan can help guide you in making your preparations and offer a number of checklists to get you started. One of the first steps in emergency preparedness is to have a basic disaster supply kit that includes water, non-perishable food for people and pets, batteries, a weather radio, flashlight, first aid kit, sanitation and hygiene items, matches and other tools. Other important items you’ll want to be sure you have on-hand include all necessary medications you and your family require—it’s important to have enough available in case you cannot get them immediately refilled; having a list of all your medications is also important if you need to visit a health care professional outside of your health care network. As a UTMB patient, signing up for MyChart is an easy way to ensure you have access to this and other personal health care information for yourself and your dependents. If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to sign up for MyChart!

The next step is to develop a communication plan with your family. Emergencies can happen at any time. Does your family know how to get in touch with one another? It may be that as employees, we are asked to stay for an extended time at UTMB, and we may be away for hours or even days. Or, we may not be at work or home at the time of an emergency. Lines of communication could be temporarily down or unavailable due to call volumes. It’s important to have a family discussion to determine how you will contact one another, where you will go in case of emergency, and to make arrangements for the care of dependents and pets.

For these reasons and others, it is also important to complete the Employee Acknowledgement Form and be familiar with the Business Continuity Plan for your UTMB unit or department. Understand how the plan is activated and by whom. Be aware of your role at UTMB before, during and after emergency. Please keep in mind that if you are currently classified as a non-essential employee, you could potentially be designated as an essential employee during an emergency. For complete details about staffing during adverse conditions, review IHOP Policy 3.1.1. In addition, “Shelter in Place/Ride Out Team” information can be found on UTMB’s HR page.

Finally, it’s important to stay informed. There are important differences among potential emergencies that should impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Hazardous events and serious weather conditions may come with very little warning. A useful source of information on weather updates for the Houston-Galveston area is www.weather.gov. You can also find important general updates on iUTMB, through UTMB Alerts, via UTMB’s Facebook page and your UTMB email account.

I hope we will remain safe throughout the Hurricane Season and throughout the years to come, but when it comes to emergency situations, it’s better to have a plan—when an emergency occurs, the time to prepare has passed!

Ask, Recognize, Celebrate, Innovate!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemIn each Friday Flash Report, I like to share my thoughts with you on UTMB’s special events, stories that I find inspiring, or important initiatives currently underway in the UTMB Health System. This week, I’d like to invite YOU to take a turn by sharing your thoughts and questions with me—are there any topics you’d like me to comment on? Do you have any questions about initiatives going on at UTMB? Would you like to recognize someone for a job well done?

In fact, a great example I recently received came to me by email from an individual who wanted to share the innovative idea her colleague had to improve care delivery in the UTMB Cardiac Catheterization Lab (often called the “Cath Lab”).

The UTMB Cath Lab is one of very few labs in the nation that do more than 30 percent of its cardiac catheterizations using the radial artery approach. In short, it is a minimally invasive procedure in which small tubes (catheters) are inserted into the circulatory system under X-ray guidance. The procedure reveals information about blood flow and pressures within the heart to determine if there are obstructions within the blood vessels feeding the heart muscle (coronary arteries). The catheters necessary for cardiac catheterization can be inserted either into the femoral artery (in the groin) or into the radial artery (in the wrist).

Left to right: Nicole Wooden, Dr. Syed Gilani and Dr. Wissam Khalife with the “Gilani”, a new device invented at UTMB to assist in radial artery access catheterizations

Left to right: Nicole Wooden, Dr. Syed Gilani and Dr. Wissam Khalife with the “Gilani”, a new device invented at UTMB to assist in radial artery access catheterizations

Because the radial artery is much smaller and located closer to the skin surface, the risk of internal bleeding is eliminated and any external bleeding can be easily compressed. After the catheter is removed from the radial artery, a compression device is placed around the wrist to apply pressure on the artery. In general, patients find radial catheterization more comfortable than femoral catheterization because they do not have to remain immobile for some time after the procedure. This is a particular advantage for patients with back problems.

Nicole Wooden, a nurse in the lab, saw a need to help better secure the left arm when doing radial artery access catheterizations; however, there was nothing available in the market that could be effectively used. Nicole went home with an innovative idea and developed it into a safe and effective device, called the “Gilani”, named after Dr. Syed Gilani, assistant professor, Division of Cardiology, to facilitate the procedure! This is just one example of innovation at UTMB, and we’ll have more information and an interview with Nicole in next week’s Health System Friday Focus Newsletter.

There are incredible people working wonders every day at UTMB, and there are countless ways to put your good ideas into action! Not only would the Health System Executive Leadership and I like to know about the exciting projects you’re working on, we also want to know what you’d like more information on, too, to help ensure we can continue our journey down The Road Ahead working together, as a team.

To submit a topic you’d like a member of the Health System Executive Team or me to write about, you can either comment on this post, below, or send us an email via the Health System Q&A website (which offers an option to send comments and questions anonymously). We’d love to hear from you!

In addition to sharing your ideas with members of the Health System Executive Leadership and me, The Innovation Challenge 2014 is also in progress at UTMB. Visit the IDEAxCHANGE website, where ideas can be posted and discussed by any member of the UTMB community throughout the state. If you’re a manager or supervisor, please also encourage your teams to take part in Innovation Challenge!

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
–Theodore Levitt

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”
–Theodore Roosevelt


Integrity: The Foundation for Building a Culture of Trust

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemWarren Buffet, widely considered the most successful investor of the 20th century, is chairman, CEO and the largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate holding company. He once said, “I look for three things in hiring people. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence and the third is a high energy level. But if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

A person can have all of the capability to achieve greatness, and they may be successful in many of their endeavors, but if they are insincere—the opposite of someone with integrity—they are not very trustworthy! When a person’s trust level with others decreases, it diminishes their credibility and causes others to question their motives, agenda and behavior. This person will spend a lot of time and energy covering their tracks and carrying the load on their own.

There is a saying, “Character is who you are in the dark.” Integrity is a quality of character that can’t outwardly be seen by others; it’s how we would act if no one was looking. People with integrity do the right thing whether or not they will be recognized for it. They believe in what they do and why they do it. When a person acts with integrity, they stand firm in their values. That is why integrity is at the heart of building a Culture of Trust at UTMB and why it is one of our core values, guiding us down The Road Ahead.

Jim Collins wrote a book, Good to Great, based on a five-year research project that compared teams who made a leap to greatness with those that did not. He found that greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance, but largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline. He says that great leaders are “a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will”. These leaders are open to the ideas of others and acknowledge that no one can possibly know it all. Good leaders realize that it is better to act on the right ideas rather than to be the one with all the ideas—they are team players. They do what needs to be done because they know it is what should be done.

Having integrity requires courage—doing the right thing isn’t always easy or comfortable. Integrity is not only important when we are faced with something that hasn’t gone well or during times of confrontation. It shines through when our actions follow our words; there is no gap between our intent and our behavior. Demonstrating integrity, and therefore acting with sincerity and trustworthiness, inspires others to do the same. This is how, by holding the value of integrity in high esteem, we truly help build a Culture of Trust.

We all share in the responsibility of creating a safe and reliable care environment for our patients, their families, and our colleagues. We trust one another to do the right thing, and moreover, our patients and their families trust us do the right thing. But we cannot have a safe, reliable environment without integrity, nor can we ever achieve a Culture of Trust at UTMB.

So, how do we increase our integrity? There are a few simple questions we can ask ourselves each day:

  • Do I genuinely try to be honest in my interactions with others?
  • Do I “walk the talk”? Does the manner in which I speak to others reflect my respect for all those with whom I work? Do my actions?
  • Am I clear on my own values and do I feel comfortable standing up for them?
  • Am I open to the  possibility of seeing another side of a debate that may cause me to rethink the issues and my stance?
  • Do I consistently make and keep commitments, both to myself and to others?

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” Compassion, integrity, respect, diversity and lifelong learning—our Culture of Trust depends on how well we demonstrate our core values each and every day.

New! Barcode Medication Administration at UTMB

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemLast week we celebrated Nurses Week at UTMB, and I had the great opportunity to “Walk a Mile” in the shoes of Bill Morey, RN in the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) Unit. As we talked, our conversation touched on the new barcode medication administration program that will begin on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at UTMB. After our conversation, I thought it would be a good idea to tell everyone at UTMB about this exciting development and why we are doing it.

Why are we implementing barcode medication administration?

The primary reason we are implementing barcode medication administration at UTMB is to increase safety for our patients. The barcode medication administration system is an important step toward achieving the Health System’s goal to become known nationally and globally as a value-driven leader in health care delivery by achieving and sustaining superior performance in clinical outcomes, quality and patient safety, a goal that also supports UTMB’s institutional strategy as outlined in “Road Ahead”.

Is there evidence that supports the use of bedside barcode medication administration to improve patient safety?

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a call to action for hospitals, titled To Err Is Human, to improve the processes used in delivering health care in the United States and to reduce the number of deaths from preventable medical errors in our hospitals. One of the most avoidable errors, and an IOM recommended strategy for error reduction, was to implement safety systems, such as barcode medication administration, to improve patient safety in our hospitals. The use of barcoding to support medication administration has been demonstrated in a number of studies over the years to reduce errors by as much as 50 percent.

How often do medication errors happen?

Medication errors in hospitals are common and often lead to patient harm. In fact, one study showed that out of every 100 patient admissions, 6.5 adverse events are related to medication use; more than one-fourth of these events were due to errors and were therefore preventable. About one-third occurred at the time the medication was ordered, another third occurred at the time the medication was given to the patient, and the remaining third occurred during the transcription and/or dispensing stages.

What is the goal of the project?

Simply put, we want to protect our patients and assure their safety while they are in our care. The goal of barcode administration is to make sure that patients are receiving the correct medications in the correct doses at the correct times by electronically validating and documenting medications. The information recorded through the use of the barcodes allows for the comparison of the medication that is being administered with what was ordered for the patient.scan

How does barcode medication administration support provider order entry?

UTMB Health began medication safety improvement efforts in 1994 with the implementation of provider order entry in our Invision system. In 2005, we transitioned to the order entry components of Epic, and at that time we also began to use their pharmacy system and the electronic medication administration record. At this point, the provider’s order directly drove both the dispensing of medications and the documentation of their administration. The implementation of barcode technology to support the administration process will be the last step in closing the medication delivery loop by extending the same system containing the provider’s original order to serve as a safety net at the point of care. It reduces the risk of error through transcribing the order into the pharmacy system. The barcode medication administration program at UTMB will initially cover more than 80 percent of all medications dispensed.

In Conclusion

Although this technology will not, nor is it intended to, eliminate medication errors entirely, and cannot replace the diligence and critical thinking of the nurse,  it is simply a safer way for UTMB to provide high quality care for our patients in environments that have frequent distractions and elevated levels of stress. Barcode medication administration is another way that UTMB Health is working together to work wonders!


The Honeywell Xenon model shown above is similiar to the devices that will be used at UTMB.

Going for Gold

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemIn Central Illinois, where I grew up, snow and frozen lakes are the norm. Almost as soon as my brother, sister and I could walk, we were given ice skates. Family videos, now on DVD, capture us all spending weekends together, ice skating in Springfield and Paris, a city about two hours away. To this day, my favorite video is of my younger sister, Jan, who was two years old at the time. My brother and I watched as my mother guided her around the ice, clapping enthusiastically as Jan glided on her own just for a brief moment before falling down.

As my brother grew older, he continued his passion for the ice by playing ice hockey. I remember sitting in the bleachers with my family weekend after weekend, cheering Dave and his teammates on to victory. My own passion for the ice played out much more vicariously, as I hung up my skates to cheer for my brother and to watch the 1960 Olympic Games on television as Carol Heiss won the gold medal in women’s figure skating for the U.S.

My love of the ice and the Olympics has stayed with me through the years, and in 2004, I met Casey FitzRandolph, a US speed skater from Wisconsin who won Olympic gold in 2002, setting a record for the 500m race. His record still stands today. As he and I became friends, I learned the powerful and motivating story about his journey to become a gold medalist.

On Friday, May 16 at noon, we will culminate Health System Week with a special presentation by Casey in the Levin Hall Main Auditorium, where he will share his inspiring message of family support, determination and perseverance despite many of the odds that were stacked against him. His talk will also be streamed online so that those who are unable to attend in person can hear his history-making story.

As you listen to Casey, you might be surprised by how similar his story is to UTMB’s own story of transformation following Hurricane Ike. The contributions made by each UTMB employee, faculty member and nurse to our recovery from the storm and to making this organization the wonderful place it is for our patients and families are equally motivational and also tell a story of courage and determination—you all are record setting champions!

And speaking of champions, at Casey’s talk we will honor and recognize the many teams and individuals at UTMB who earned recognition this past year for UTMB—many of them are gold, silver and bronze award winners, too!

I hope you will enjoy next week’s Health System Week activities that celebrate and recognize YOU for the incredible work you do each and every day on behalf of UTMB!  Casey’s talk is open to the public, so if you have friends, neighbors and/or family who would like to hear Casey’s message, please invite them to attend. For more details on his upcoming presentation, please click here.