Recognizing Team Accomplishments, Sharing a Vision

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemThis week, I came across a posting of monthly clinic stats for the PCP Pediatrics Clinic developed by Practice Manager Ashley Dusek. The creative style she used to help inform her team of the most recent numbers for completed patient appointments really stood out to me. She did much more than simply reveal the data—she helped her team understand why the work they did during the month of February mattered to the 1,421 patients they served.

The post began, “Total Number of Completed Appointments 1,421. Why do I care you ask?” The communication continued:

“Because of you…1,421 patients were reassured their vitals were stable and that their lab work, which you drew, would be processed in a timely manner.

Because of you…1,421 patients were able to receive specialty care, immunizations, or just a simple reassurance by having their medical questions answered.

Because of you…1,421 patients were examined and given the right medications to make it all better!

Because of you…8,943 patient phone calls were answered. They were able to make appointments, ask questions, get test results, get prescription refills and know that we were there to answer and help with whatever they needed.

If you got to the end of this and you still believe you are too small to make a difference, Try sleeping with a mosquito!”

Ashley acknowledged the work her team had accomplished and also recognized that their efforts had positively impacted the patients’ experiences.

When I speak with individuals across the institution, whether their role is in direct patient care or they work behind the scenes, it is clear to me that as an organization, we believe we are ultimately here to serve our patients and their families. We find the greatest satisfaction in our roles when we know that we have provided good service to them and that we have truly made a difference.

Several months ago, when Sharon Johnson, a senior radiation therapist at UTMB, was asked how she felt she impacted the patient experience, her response wasn’t made in reference to the tasks she performs daily to deliver patient therapy alone. Instead, she answered, “I just try to be who they need me to be at that moment. Sometimes it’s a shoulder to cry on, sometimes they need a sister or a mother figure, sometimes it’s just a friend to hold their hand. I give a little piece of myself to the patients and I gain so much in return.”

While we all do what we do at UTMB because we receive the intrinsic reward of helping our patients and families, it also feels good to receive direct feedback that affirms we have made a difference. When our patients are satisfied, we feel satisfied with our performance. However, it can sometimes seem that we more frequently receive feedback about the areas in which we have yet to improve, and perhaps less frequently that our names are called out in a moving patient testimonial that so eloquently describes the true impact that we have made.

That is why, as team leaders, we must be supportive of the work our teams do. It is not always just about celebrating the major milestones; it is also about celebrating the small successes we have made along the way. When we feel good about what we do, we also develop a desire to continue that success—we have a sense of pride and ownership. Therefore, even when we do identify areas needing improvement, we must take care that we are constructive in our approach to both delivering and receiving the message. We want to emphasize fixing our processes, not assigning blame—that is a Culture of Trust.

Much of the work we do in health care today takes place under an umbrella of a changing health care environment. While this change is sometimes difficult, many of the best components of these changes are embedded in improving the quality and efficiency of care as well as the experience of the patient. It will take teamwork to be successful, and this means we are all involved, at all levels of the organization. This is a positive process! It’s important that we share information, celebrate accomplishments and provide timely, consistent and authentic feedback. Our focus of discussion is on how we can build on strengths and past positive experiences. We must do more than identify what is already working well; we need to identify what else can be done to enhance this work.

Tom Morris, author of If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business, explains that while the pace of change may be at an all-time high, the challenge of change has always been with us. Change is the condition for positive, creative growth. At UTMB, we must stand firm in our values of compassion, integrity, respect, diversity and lifelong learning. We share in the vision of the road ahead, and we will work together to achieve it. We are here to work together to work wonders for our patients and their families!

If you would like to recognize an accomplishment or creative solution, please share with it us! Email us at health.system@utmb.edu

Going for the Gold

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemIt’s that time again. Many of us have been glued to our television sets each evening, watching with excitement and anticipation as the 2014 Winter Olympics unfold. I don’t know how many of you watched this weekend, but I watched more than my fair share! When my husband asked me why I am so fascinated with the Olympics, my response was quick: I love watching the Olympics to see people who have invested so much time and energy into a single focus—to represent their country and be the best at what they do! However, my husband’s question did cause me to think some more about why I love watching the Olympics.

First, I admire people who are dedicated to working hard to achieve exceptional results. Many of these athletes have great stories that are often not told until the time the Olympics air. In some stories, the athletes have overcome major obstacles to achieve their goal and have sacrificed much in their lives in order to maintain an almost singular focus on the one thing that is so important to them. In other stories, we get to hear about parents and family members who not only provide critical emotional and financial support, but also give much of their time to support their loved one as they strive to meet their life’s goals. I am drawn to these stories and to the incredible individual and team achievements.

I have a friend who won a gold medal in speed skating at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He sometimes talks about how he has many attributes that should have worked against him—he is considered too tall for the sport, and he isn’t all that fast. To add to these liabilities, six months before the Olympics, the Dutch came out with the clapper skate that revolutionized speed skating, shaving seconds off the race. My friend had to relearn how to skate is six short months before his competition. All of this combined made his outlook seem bleak; however, he tells me that he overcame these obstacles through hard work, a singular focus and an overwhelming passion to excel. That, he believes, allowed him to earn a gold medal.

As I think about the Olympics and my friend with the gold medal, I am struck by the similarities between his achievement and what we all do at UTMB each and every day. We are individuals who, on our own, may not be able to accomplish the job at hand; however, when we work together in support of one another, we leverage one another’s strengths and we are all focused on a singular purpose—to work together to define the future of health care and to strive to be the best in all of our endeavors. Together, we can accomplish great things.

Olympians almost always have the strong support of their parents, family, or friends. I know that was the case with my friend; he often told me that he shared his gold medal with his family, because without their support, he would never have reached this pinnacle. And so it is with all of us—individual efforts and successes often are the result of many people on a team, some of whom are on the frontlines and others behind the scenes.

Lastly, there are the Olympic stories that tell of how athletes first got started in their sport. In some cases, we hear of Olympic athletes who were motivated to begin competing after they watched another Olympian participate, like Mary Lou Retton, who took up gymnastics after watching Nadia Comăneci perform in the 1976 Summer Olympics. I thought of this earlier in the week when I attended the official award ceremony for the UTMB SICU team, during which time they were formally awarded their pins for achieving the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (ACCN) Gold-Level Beacon Award for Nursing—in fact, they are one of only four gold-level recipients in Texas.

The Beacon Award, which I touched on in one of my earlier posts, recognizes individual units that distinguish themselves by improving all aspects of patient care. It also signifies that UTMB patients who are admitted to our SICU experience better outcomes and are more satisfied with their overall experience.

As I listened to the story of the SICU’s journey to achieve this award, I heard many individuals singled out for their contributions. However, what struck me was that each of these individuals in turn recognized the entire team’s effort to achieve the award. I also learned that both the MICU and the Burn Unit, inspired by the SICU’s success, are now in the process of completing their own applications for the Beacon Award.

Each one of you at UTMB Health is to be congratulated for the part you have played (and will play in the future) as we journey to our own gold medal: to be the safest, most reliable place for patients to receive their care! Thanks to each of you for your contributions as individuals and team members who are striving each and every day to make UTMB a better place for patients to receive their care.

 

Any road will take you there if you don’t know where you’re going.

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemOne winter as a college student in the Midwest, I embarked on a 30-minute trek along a limited access interstate during a snow storm. I was on my way to the airport to catch a plane home for the holidays. I was only about ten miles into my journey when the snow began to fall heavier and heavier. Suddenly, I was in the middle of a full-blown blizzard. Driving about 10 miles per hour at most, I could barely see the edges of the road and I could no longer gauge my progress by simply looking at the road ahead of me.

As I slowly moved along the interstate, I began to notice cars and trucks had slid off the road into adjacent ditches. Meanwhile, other drivers had wisely pulled off to the side of the road under the overpasses. Yet, I continued. Soon, I came up behind an 18-wheeler that seemed to know where he was going. Rather than stopping to wait out the storm, I began driving behind him. After all, I had a plane to catch!

When I finally reached the Kansas City airport, I sighed in relief that I had safely (and now, I must admit foolishly) arrived at my destination only to discover that, of course, all flights had been canceled. I spent the next two days in the airport trying to get home.

Reflecting on this event from my past made me realize how important it is to be able clearly see where one is headed. I thought about how easy it was to drive the interstate when there were no obstacles and the weather was nice and clear. From memory, I could drive that road to get where I wanted; I didn’t need a guide. However, during the snow storm there was no definition to the road and no clarity about where I was going. It was an unnerving feeling and reminded me of a saying my dad always used: “Any road will take you there if you don’t know where you’re going.” This made me think a lot about the importance of a plan.

Knowing where you’re headed is important when you’re traveling from one destination to another. It’s also important for a large organization to understand where it’s headed as it strives to fulfill its mission. At UTMB, our road map is The Road Ahead, a document that succinctly articulates our mission and vision with clearly stated goals of what we need to do in order to be successful in all of our endeavors.

roadaheadAs we embark on a New Year, let’s revisit The Road Ahead so that we all know where we are headed as an organization. As we review the goals we have set for ourselves, let’s each think about how, through the work we do each day,  we individually contribute  to UTMB’s success in achieving its mission to improve health for the people of Texas and around the world.

Similar to the parable  of the three stonecutters included in the message, “What we really do for a living…” it is not merely the tasks that we do, but rather how our work helps to advance patient care, health sciences education and research. Let’s all set a goal to be able to quickly describe how our work helps UTMB succeed as we continue on The Road Ahead.

I once heard a funny story that said we should not be pleased to win the “Christopher Columbus Award”, because it implies we don’t know where we’re going, we don’t know when we have reached our destination, and when we get home, we don’t know where we have been. Fortunately, UTMB won’t win that award because we have The Road Ahead, our guide to a successful future!

Like a Drop of Water

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemThis week, I attended the second UTMB Family Campaign Beam Signing, which was held at the Specialty Care Center at Victory Lakes for UTMB employees who contributed to the campaign. As everyone gathered around the large steel beam to sign their names, I thought about how the beam will be displayed in the stairwell of the new hospital as a visible reminder of the many people at UTMB who supported the effort to build the Jennie Sealy Hospital. Signing the beam is a symbolic gesture. Each name on the beam represents an individual’s commitment to improve health in the communities UTMB serves, while the beam itself represents the collective gift of more than 3,900 employees who have raised $8.1 million toward the new hospital.

I also thought about how in the future, that collective commitment will continue to have an impact far greater than we might imagine it to be today. After all, many years ahead, some of the individuals who contributed to the campaign may be part of new organizations, and some may have moved to live in a new city or state without occasion to return to Galveston. These individuals may never actually see how their contribution made a difference or fully comprehend its magnitude, but it will most certainly change the lives of many patients and families who receive outstanding care within the walls of the new facility.

This triggered a memory of an experience I had after building a previous hospital. It was a children’s hospital, and shortly after it opened, one of my son’s close friends had just had a baby, who experienced complications. The child was immediately transferred to the new hospital where he was quickly diagnosed and began extensive treatment for a metabolic disorder. Prior to the new hospital, the child would have been transferred hours away from home to receive care, and an already trying experience would have been even more challenging for the family. In the worst case scenario, the child could have lost his life. For me, it was a meaningful experience to see firsthand how the new hospital had a major impact on a family’s life and the life of a patient.

Like a drop of water that never reaches the shore, but creates ripples that extend outward, our impact on the world will likely be greater than we imagine it today. Whatever our role at UTMB, most of us have chosen the field of health care to make a difference. We want to spend the time we must away from home doing something that has great meaning to us. Leaving a legacy doesn’t mean that we have to give more than we can afford; it doesn’t mean that we must achieve tremendous feats like becoming president or composing a masterpiece. It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we leave the world a better place than we found it and have demonstrated our values in a way that will have meaning to future generations.

So many people at every level reinforced the hard work and dedication they demonstrate every day with their generosity. Thank you to each and every member of the UTMB Health community who participated in the 2012 UTMB Family Campaign, Working Together the Future is Ours. You have made a difference!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

RIPPLE

New Year’s Resolutions

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemEach New Year presents new opportunities—opportunities to learn new things, to focus on what we hope to achieve in the future and to treat one another and ourselves better. As we bring one year to a close and embark on a new stage in our journey, it is important for each of us at UTMB Health to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make, set our sights on what we’d like to achieve in the next 12 months and resolve to follow through on those changes.

On an individual level, we can choose what we want for ourselves in the New Year; on an organizational level, we share in many of our goals, and we are guided by core values that help to define our culture. As an academic medical center, faculty members, health care providers, staff and students all share in the responsibility of caring for our patients and improving health in the communities we serve. Sharing a common vision keeps everyone moving forward. Teamwork and collaboration are the very basis for the great accomplishments that we will achieve.

If we resolve to place the patient at the center of everything we do and to abide by our core values in all of our endeavors, we will meet with success in not only achieving our goals, but ultimately by providing the best care for our patients and their families. We’ll also go a long way toward creating a safe and positive work environment for everyone at UTMB.

So let us begin 2014 by reaffirming the values which serve as the cornerstone of UTMB’s reputation as a leading academic health center and an institution deserving of the trust that our patients and their families place in us:

We demonstrate compassion for all. The letters I receive daily from our patients reflect that compassion is alive and well at UTMB. Caring for others is why we are here! In 2014, may we always maintain an awareness of others and consider what life may be like after walking a mile in their shoes. Many of you may have seen the video “What if you could read their thoughts?” in which Cleveland Clinic explores what empathy really means and explores how our interactions with others would change if we knew what they were feeling and thinking. In a hospital, empathy underpins human relationships, and I encourage you to view the video if you haven’t already.

We always act with integrity. Everyone plays a part in creating a safe and reliable care environment. Each of us holds ourselves accountable and each of us expects one another to do the same. As the saying goes, “Character is who you are in the dark.”  When no one’s looking, we are the ones to whom we answer. Having integrity means we believe in what we do and why we do it, and essentially, we trust one another to do the right thing. Moreover, our patients and their families trust us do the right thing. They trust us to be honest, qualified, knowledgeable and to not only have one another’s best interests at heart, but to especially have at heart what is in their best interest.

We show respect to everyone we meet. It is widely acknowledged that there are different kinds of respect. Respect can be defined simply as a behavior or it can be defined as an attitude or feeling. However, respect is always directed toward, paid to, felt about, or shown for another person. We can show respect to others by valuing and appreciating them as unique individuals and when in the work environment, also treating them as esteemed colleagues. We 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. Finally, we regard one another not merely as a means to serve a purpose, but as valuable human beings. Therefore, we should all work in partnership with one another because we are all here at UTMB, in whatever our role, to serve a single purpose: to provide the best service and safest possible care for our patient and their families.

We embrace diversity to best serve a global community. The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing our individual differences, including dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other the best we can and moving forward in our encounters with respect of those differences, including how we communicate, educate and provide patient care. We should embrace and celebrate the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

We promote excellence and innovation through lifelong learning.  Through innovation and by exploring new solutions, we not only gain knowledge, but we are also then able to contribute to the greater body of knowledge. Lifelong learning makes us successful, no matter what our definition of success may be. We grow as a person through learning and when one masters a subject through continuous learning, it brings satisfaction. Lifelong learning enables us to be confident, competent, and knowledgeable; it increases productivity and makes us better leaders.

I’ve said it before, but I am proud to be part of an organization like UTMB and to work alongside each of you. Everyone is doing a truly remarkable job, both by helping one another and going the extra mile to serve our patients and families. So this year, let’s embrace the values of compassion, integrity diversity, respect and lifelong learning and embark on the beginning of a very successful 2014!

Be sure to share the great achievements you and your teams accomplish along the way!

The Greatest Accomplishments are Achieved Through Teamwork

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemIn the world of health care today, it’s hard to go anywhere without hearing about the necessity of teamwork or that the greatest accomplishments are achieved when people work in teams. Teamwork requires constant attention, communication, inclusion and collaboration.

One of my favorite sports is basketball, and one of the all-time greats and holder of six NBA championship rings, Michael Jordan, once said the said the following: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Think about it. We have so many talented and intelligent people who work at UTMB, but Jordan’s sentiment about teamwork is the essential ingredient for ultimate success. At UTMB, we have to work together to benefit the health and care of patients. Just before the holidays, I took some time to review everything that we had collectively achieved over the past year, and not only was it clear to me that we are all passionate about being the best possible place for patients to receive care, but I was amazed by all that we had accomplished as a result of this teamwork!

We began 2013 by breaking ground on the Victory Lakes expansion, an exciting project that will allow UTMB to provide more services and convenience to our patients in the Bay Area while also offering a more integrated system of care. Meanwhile, we built mock-up rooms of the new Jennie Sealy Hospital to allow staff and community members a chance to provide feedback; we made modifications based on that input and then conducted patient simulation drills to ensure the design would be as refined as possible for our patients, their families and our patient care teams.

We made a collective commitment to engage our patients and their families in every stage of their care by placing them at the center of their care team. We also went live with utmbConnect, which enabled us to offer our patients the convenience of a single electronic medical record and a combined bill for all of their encounters at UTMB. And speaking of the utmbConnect project, UTMB recently received news that we were rated an “A+” top-tier performer by Epic—what an outstanding achievement! We could not have been as successful without a tremendous amount of teamwork across all areas of the institution.

In 2013, it seemed as though awards came in one after another. We became first hospital in Texas to receive American Health Association’s Get with the Guidelines®-Resuscitation Silver Quality Achievement Award and became one of four centers Texas and one of 44 in the U.S. to be designated as an AAGL Center of Excellence Distinction for Minimally Invasive Gynecology. We also received certification from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and these are only a few examples of recognitions—don’t forget the SICU’s recent Gold-level Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and Family Medicine’s recognition as an NCQA Level-3 Patient Centered Medical Home. This was quite a year for UTMB!

We also developed great partnerships, such as the shared pilot program between the UTMB Emergency Department and Galveston EMS that reduces the time it takes to get a stroke patient to a CT scan after reaching the ER entrance from 20 minutes to 2 minutes—this is valuable time saved for a stroke patient, who may lose 10 percent of salvageable brain function for every 15 minutes they go untreated.

I could fill an entire book with all the great accomplishments over the past year, and I assure you, these are but a handful of the highlights. I am excited to share all that we will accomplish through teamwork in 2014. If you have stories that you would like to share, please send them to me at health.system@utmb.edu

Thank you for your teamwork. I am proud to work with each of you and to be part of the UTMB team!

Making a Pound of Honey

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemI have always been fascinated by honeybees. I often observed the bees as a child, and although I’d occasionally get too close for their comfort and was stung, I was still very intrigued by how synchronized they were in their work and how each bee seemed to have a certain role.

During a honeybee’s short lifetime, which lasts about two months, it will visit millions of flowers and travel a distance equivalent to twice around the earth, while only producing one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. Thus, it requires anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 bees to make a single pound of honey. From the queen bee to each and every worker bee, the entire hive must work together in their roles to achieve their life’s purpose of making honey.

This past week, I thought of the bees and the magnitude of their collaborative effort when I heard about two outstanding recognitions achieved at UTMB—these accomplishments could not have been possible without a tremendous amount of teamwork!

News of the first recognition came last Friday, when David Marshall, our chief nursing and patient care services officer, sent out an announcement that UTMB’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) was awarded the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (ACCN) Beacon Award.

The Beacon Award recognizes individual units that distinguish themselves by improving all aspects of patient care. It also signifies that UTMB patients who are admitted to our SICU experience better outcomes and are more satisfied with their overall experience.

For our nurses, this award means that generally, there is a positive and supportive work environment with a greater degree of teamwork and collaboration between all caregivers, higher employee morale and lower turnover rates. What an outstanding accomplishment that exemplifies the phrase “win-win” for both our patients and the staff of the SICU!

In addition, earlier this week, Dr. Barbara Thompson, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine, received the news that all three of our Family Medicine practice sites (Island West, Island East and Dickinson) were awarded Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) status, the highest level recognized by National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Only a little more than half of NCQA-recognized practices have achieved the Level 3 status.

This recognition acknowledges an undertaking that began in the fall of 2011 to prepare our clinics to operate under a special model of patient care that is designed to strengthen the relationship between the patient and their care team. Each patient has an ongoing relationship with their care team, which consists of their physician, a medical assistant, nurses, patient care technicians and other clinical and administrative staff, at a single location. The team takes collective responsibility for the patient’s care, providing for his/her health care needs and arranging for appropriate care with other qualified clinicians. The medical home is intended to result in more personalized, coordinated, effective and efficient care. This is the epitome of teamwork, and having this recognition positions UTMB well for the future of health care reform!

Each of us works on a team that in some way, shape or form impacts our patients, and we all have an important role to play in assuring that our patients receive the best possible care. Our individual contributions to the team on which we work are critical to achieving UTMB’s vision of “working together to work wonders as we define the future of health care and strive to be the best in all endeavors.”

Thank you for your individual contributions to the team. Your work truly does make a difference in patients’ lives!