Smile, YOU are UTMB Health!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemIn last week’s Friday Flash Report, we explored the idea of the new Jennie Sealy Hospital as a symbol of UTMB Health’s transformation over the years. We also acknowledged the hospital’s opening as an opportunity to affirm and nurture UTMB’s renewal through demonstrating a welcoming, caring culture each day. Whatever our role, we are all representatives of UTMB Health, and we all work together to make the experience of UTMB an exceptional one for our patients and their loved ones.

You should all feel very proud of the important contributions you each make at UTMB. Whether you work from behind the scenes to keep our facilities operational or deliver meals to our patients, whether you work in a lab or prepare medications, whether you help keep UTMB beautiful by providing a clean environment or deliver patient care in a clinic or inpatient unit, whether you greet patients at a front desk or help them find the resources they need to say healthy, you all contribute to making UTMB Health the healthcare system that it is. And while our new hospital represents the hard work of hundreds of people who put in thousands of hours of work to make it a reality, buildings are not what make UTMB Health. It is you – our people.

As I speak with employees in different areas across the organization, I see the pride you all have in your work, and I know you put your best foot forward each day. When I walk the halls of our many different locations, there is one behavior in particular I see that I would like for everyone at UTMB Health to practice, and it is something that speaks volumes about our caring health care environment: SMILE!

There is a philosophy in the hospitality industry known as the “15-5 Rule”. For example, at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the rule states that when you see someone at a distance of 15 feet and private conversations cease, give visual recognition, such as a smile. At five feet, acknowledge the person, and if needed, listen and offer assistance. It takes less than two seconds to make a first impression!

I know for some individuals who feel a little shy at times, this may seem like an uncomfortable practice at first. For others, we may find ourselves thinking deeply about something that happened that particular day, and we forget to smile at and acknowledge the people who we pass. At other times, we may say hello to someone, and they don’t reply in return (which may be part of their personal cultural practice). But more often than not, I find that when I greet someone with a smile, they smile back, and the more I make it a conscious effort to practice this, the more positive my environment feels.

I sometimes wonder, what keeps us from interacting with others in this simple way? Whether our passing interaction is with a patient or visitor to the hospital, or even a fellow employee, I think it is helpful to remember we are all human beings. What if we thought of them as going through the same things as we are, whether we are celebrating something special or we are in the midst of a difficult time in our lives? What might change if we thought of everyone we pass as being just like us?

You may be familiar with the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” There is great truth to this adage. We realize that patients and their loved ones are often going through very challenging and stressful times when hospitalized. However, a hospital experience isn’t always this way. It can also be an experience of healing or the celebration of a new beginning. So by the same token, it can be a wonderful gift to let others know how you’re celebrating with them!

If we try to think of each person we pass as being a little more like us, and if we live our UTMB values by treating them not only with compassion and respect, but with a smile and eye contact as well, we will probably notice some pretty nice changes! This is a wonderful way we can support a welcoming and caring atmosphere each and every day!


Don’t forget! Next week, we will be enjoying a series of
Jennie Sealy Hospital Dedication Events!

Nurturing UTMB’s Amazing Transformation

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemTomorrow, February 13, is an important day at UTMB Health. We will take an important step in preparing to open the new Jennie Sealy Hospital for patients and their loved ones by conducting the Mock Patient Move from John Sealy Hospital to Jennie Sealy Hospital.

Teams and volunteers from across the entire organization will join together to conduct this “dress rehearsal” of the patient move process. It will be as close as possible to the actual patient move and opening day activities, and this step in the preparation is a key opportunity to identify and resolve any potential obstacles that could arise during the move.

At UTMB Health, safety and service are our greatest priorities. Therefore, our guiding principle during the move is to safely transport our patients while maintaining normal hospital operations. The second priority is to support the patients’ loved ones during the move. Although we will request that visitation be limited that day in order to ensure patient safety and efficiency of the move, patients are welcome to have one or two loved ones with them that day. We understand that while this is an exciting event, many patients and guests may feel anxious about the process. Having the comfort and support of loved ones will be of paramount importance.

For patient safety reasons, only the clinical care teams will move with the patients. Therefore, visitors will be offered a hospitality area in which to wait during the move. It is possible that some guests may arrive at UTMB while the move is in progress, or after their loved one has already arrived in their new patient room, so these visitors may need assistance finding their appropriate destinations. This is why Mock Patient Move and Move Day Volunteers have been asked to proactively greet and assist families and visitors and escort them to their destination. They have also been asked to take the time to find an answer to guests’ questions, or point them to someone who can help.

I believe the pride of everyone who has worked so hard to make the Jennie Sealy Hospital a reality is truly shining through, and we are all excited to share this beautiful new facility with our patients, guests and the community. I believe we all feel the new hospital is a symbol of UTMB’s transformation over the years. Now, by demonstrating a welcoming and caring culture each and every day, we will hold onto and nurture our amazing transformation.

Esprit de corps is French term used in the English language to describe the “common spirit” that exists among the members of a group. It is a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty; it is enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for a particular set of values. With each and every interaction we have with others at UTMB Health, let’s try to live and embrace the UTMB Spirit. Let’s demonstrate our core values—compassion, respect, integrity, diversity and lifelong learning—and make UTMB known far and wide for its friendly atmosphere, helpful and knowledgeable employees, an upbeat spirit, and wonderful hospitality.

At UTMB, excellent service starts with us. Whatever our role, from the moment we put on our UTMB badge, we become representatives of the organization, and everything we do while we wear our badge represents our commitment to our patients, visitors and colleagues. Let’s make it a daily practice to go above and beyond to create a memorable experience for our patients and their loved ones.

Our motto at UTMB Health is 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.’”

And we hope that our patients and guests will say of their experience at UTMB, “We love this hospital—people really take care of us here.”

Along the journey of a patient and their loved ones, they will encounter many different representatives of UTMB. From the advertisement on a billboard to their conversation with an access center or registration representative, from parking garage attendants to the hospital welcome desk, in waiting rooms, hospital lobbies, throughout their encounters with our patient care teams, and through the efforts of everyone working behind the scenes to support health system operations, there are thousands of people and many different settings that impact the patient/guest experience.

Think of the picture we paint when we treat others with warmth, sincerity, compassion and respect. By being mindful of the life events of patients, families, visitors and colleagues alike, we make a difference. We recognize that every person we meet is a human being, and we care about how we treat them. We do the right thing by them because we know it is what should be done.

When we hold ourselves accountable to this practice daily, we will build a culture that delivers a consistently outstanding experience. It is up to us to deliver what every patient, guest and employee deserves—the best possible care and a caring environment. And we are rewarded in turn by their loyalty and support of UTMB Health.

goodofotherJennie Sealy Hospital opens to the public April 9, 2016.



Making tomorrow’s history today

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemDuring a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

The janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.”

I love this story! Obviously, the janitor understood the importance of his contribution. He truly felt he was a valuable part of something bigger than himself, and his attitude created a feeling of self-confidence in his mission. He wasn’t merely a janitor; he was a member of the 1962 NASA Space Team!

Next Saturday, February 13, the Health System will conduct the Mock Patient Move to Jennie Sealy Hospital. Patient care teams have been meticulously rehearsing the details of each patient move, and on that day, with the help of volunteers who will act in the role of “patients”, care teams will rehearse the actual patient move that will occur on April 9. Meanwhile, since the hospital reached substantial completion last month, teams from nearly every department across the organization have played a key role in preparing the hospital to receive its first patients.

In addition to the individuals who are tasked with specific jobs to help prepare the hospital and work through the steps of the patient move, the enthusiasm of everyone across the organization, from staff to physicians to students, is palpable. Everyone wants to help take part in the mock move rehearsals, dedication events and opening day!

The new hospital is beautiful, and in many ways, the significance of its opening parallels putting a man on the moon, because of the incredible teamwork, time, dedication and effort of so many people who have truly worked together to work wonders. It is something we have awaited with great anticipation, and the moment is nearly here.

No matter how large or small your role, whether you are an employee, a student, a clinician or researcher, a donor or a community member, you are contributing to the larger story of UTMB’s history, its resilience, its future, and its important role in the Houston-Galveston region. Together, we are making tomorrow’s history today!


View Jennie Sealy Hospital from John Sealy Plaza. Photo by Christian von Eschenbach