Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemAs we continue our focus on achieving Best Care at UTMB Health, I would like to share a recent story of teamwork that occurred among our nursing staff.

Earlier this week, there was a patient who needed a PICC line in order to be discharged that day. (For those who may not be familiar with this term, a PICC line is a peripherally inserted central catheter that can be used for a prolonged period of time to intravenously deliver medications, such as long chemotherapy regimens or extended antibiotic therapy, or for administration of certain substances/nutrition).

Inserting a PICC line requires special training; however, there was not a nurse on duty who could perform the insertion. The staff made one quick call for help to Josette Armendariz-Batiste, director, patient care services and assistant chief nursing officer. A few hours later, Nurse Manager Robert Hastedt arrived on campus from Galveston with the equipment. Quickly following behind him was Alain Medrano-Safores, the PICC nurse who was able to insert the line and discharge our happy patient.

What the League City team initially thought was going to be a difficult challenge was easily and willingly taken care of by Josette, Robert and Alain. Now, Robert is working with ED Nurse Manager Ed Smith to discuss offering training to League City nurses so they, too, can perform PICC line insertions when needed.

No matter what role your team plays, whether you provide direct patient care or you work in support of that care, we all bring unique talents and expertise to our teams. Those skills enable us to work together to work wonders—it is through teamwork and collaboration that we find opportunities to engage others and break through barriers to delivering Best Care.

There are a few additional pearls of wisdom we can take away from this story:

  • It doesn’t require anything but the right attitude to make a big difference in patient care. Let’s demonstrate our passion for delivering Best Care to every patient, every time.
  • When we demonstrate respect for patients and our colleagues, we do what is right, not just what is easy—even if no one is looking.
  • We must be prepared to deliver Best Care and take the time necessary to make sure care is safe, timely, appropriate and effective.
  • We should remember to serve others first and to be good stewards of people and resources.
  • We demonstrate integrity by holding ourselves and one another accountable to delivering Best Care; we demonstrate it through honesty, trustworthiness, and dependability.
  • We show respect to one another by building trust and honoring our words through our actions.
  • We also demonstrate respect by treating patients, their loved ones and our colleagues with dignity and compassion.
  • We live the value of lifelong learning not only by pursuing knowledge, but by sharing our knowledge with others.
  • We should proactively seek solutions to improve processes and implement new ideas.

These are values that are part of the fabric of our culture. If we all make a conscious effort to put these simple principles into practice, we are certain to create a culture that always delivers the Best Care, every patient, every time.

“There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.” ― Idowu Koyenikan

Fish don’t know they’re in water

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemOne day, two young fish were swimming along, and they happened to meet an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish nodded at them and said, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” The two young fish continued swimming for a bit. Eventually, one of them looked over at the other and asked, “What is water?”

This morning, I heard on the radio that tomorrow is National Fishing Day. But, that is not the occasion for this story. The reason I wanted to share this story is because the fish do not realize they are in water—they have always been surrounded by it.

The moral of the story: Sometimes, in order to realize one’s surroundings, it is necessary to step outside of that environment.

This is how it is with culture, also. Often, it is not until you travel outside of the area in which you live or change your routine that you realize you do actually live in a culture. Culture is most commonly defined as the way of life, beliefs and traditions of a particular group. However, culture can also exist in organizations—it is a way of thinking, behaving or working. And, we can become so used to a particular way of doing things, that it becomes very difficult to see that what we think are universal truths are just our local culture.

In last week’s Friday Flash Report, I introduced a new initiative we are implementing at UTMB Health called “Best Care”. I mentioned that while we are currently performing very well in terms of patient satisfaction, we have a lot of work to do in other areas, like reducing readmissions that occur within 30 days of a patient’s discharge and reducing length of stay, mortality rates, hospital-acquired conditions and patient safety events.

I know that everyone at UTMB Health holds our values—compassion, integrity, respect, diversity and lifelong learning—in high regard, because they are part of our culture. I know you all believe in providing the best care and service. I also realize, however, that there are many pressures in health care today. We are caring for many patients and working in a fast-paced, highly productive environment. At the same time, we have already accomplished a great deal of work to make care safer by improving processes and implementing new technology. Taking it a step further, we have recently increased hand hygiene compliance to an outstanding rate of 98% in our inpatient units and nearly 100% across the board in our ambulatory locations. Nevertheless, Best Care is a big term that is made up of many specific efforts.

Therefore, we must not only focus on sustaining the improvements we have made, but we must continue to improve in order to provide Texas, the nation and the world with the finest health care possible. UTMB Health is a leader in many ways—so, let’s also lead the way by becoming one of the top health systems in the nation for providing Best Care.

To achieve our vision to be the best, we must wholeheartedly commit to always doing the right thing for the right patient, at the right time, in the right way. We must also acknowledge that there are still processes—and even general behaviors—within our current environment that need to change. However, we may not be able to recognize all of these different aspects right now, because we are surrounded by them.

What are the changes we will have to make to get to Best Care?

We must step back and see our care environment through the eyes of our patients and their loved ones. I know that many of you have been patients, and many of you have seen your loved ones hospitalized. Many of you have had excellent care experiences, and many of you have had experiences that were less than satisfactory. So you know from firsthand experience that receiving health care should never present an avoidable risk! Just as we trust that every safety measure has been taken when we board an airplane, our patients trust us to make sure the care we deliver is safe, and they trust that we will help them get better and stay well!

Even though we are working in a busy environment, we must be sure to take a little extra time to ensure safety, to accurately document the care we provide in the patient’s medical record, to run through our safety checklists, and engage our patients and their families in the plan of care. We must help them find the resources they need to take care of their health. To accomplish this, we must be supportive of one another and willing to stop each other when we see someone is not exercising patient safety. Inaction in the face of safety problems is taboo! We must also realize that if and when someone brings a concern to our attention, it is not directed at us as an individual; rather, it is being done with the intention of ensuring the Best Care for every patient, every time.

Recognizing the changes that need to be made and then making them will take some time, but the urgency to improve is immediate. It will require persistence and courage, because some of the changes we need to make may be counterintuitive to traditional processes. Best Care is everyone’s responsibility.

We are embarking on a journey, and there are many steps we must take to make it a success. Let’s not be like the two fish that do not know they are in water! Let’s commit to being aware of and understanding our environment and culture so that we can make the necessary changes to assure our patients receive the Best Care—every patient, every time.

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The Best Care: Every Patient, Every Time!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemOne of the things I like most about my office location in the new Jennie Sealy Hospital is that I have the opportunity to interact with our patients and employees more than ever before. I appreciate when people approach me and let me know about items that need attention or areas in which we can improve. I also enjoy the chance to hear firsthand about the good experiences people have had while receiving care at UTMB Health.

Today, for example, an employee approached me to tell me about a very positive experience their family member had while at UTMB. In fact, the experience was so positive that the patient will be switching all of their care over to UTMB. Isn’t that wonderful? I don’t know where the family member previously received their care, but it indicates to me that we are doing something right; it also proves that every interaction we have with our patients is meaningful and represents a chance to make a positive impression.

Many of us can say from personal experience that it is not lost on a patient when the care and treatment they receive is better than they have received elsewhere. It is important to remember that the impression they have of those care experiences is created by more than just the interactions they had with physicians and nurses.

Time and time again, when I hear raving reviews from patients, they describe their encounters with everyone they interacted with along the way. They remember the person by whom they were first greeted or the person who thanked them for choosing UTMB, the person with whom they spoke with on the phone, the person who gave them directions, and the person who transported them to their destination.

Often, they describe a technician who calmed their fears or someone who stayed to hold their hand during a procedure. They mention the person who delivered their meal, who cleaned their room or the person who helped them find the resources the needed. Their experience is also impacted by the teams who maintain the clinical equipment and facility infrastructure. Every single one of you makes a difference in the quality of patient care at UTMB Health.

In the months to come, you will hear a lot from me about a new initiative at UTMB we are calling “Best Care”. Some of you may wonder why I am so focused on improving the quality of our care we deliver at UTMB. After all, we receive many positive comments from our patients about their care, and our inpatient satisfaction scores have improved to the point where we are now in the top 20 among academic medical center peers. We are doing really well in terms of inpatient service and patient satisfaction.

However, the Best Care requires more than patient satisfaction, and it is more than being patient-centered. It means patients healed well and stayed well; it means they did not acquire a preventable infection or injury; it means that their care was safe, timely and effective. The Best Care means we consistently deliver care that meets these criteria, every single time and for every single patient.

Unfortunately, there are some very important areas for Best Care in which UTMB does not rank among the elite list of top 20 academic medical centers. In fact, we are solidly stuck in the middle in areas such as efficiency, mortality, readmissions, hospital-acquired conditions and patient safety events. Because we want to deliver only the very Best Care at UTMB, we will need to make significant progress in these areas over the course of the coming year. At the same time, we must also sustain our patient satisfaction scores in order to move into the top tier of academic medical centers. That is my goal. In fact, it will be my singular focus from now on.

The distance we must make up to achieve this top tier ranking is considerable, and we are working toward this at a time when all other academic medical centers are also focused on improving. Some of you who have already learned about our Best Care initiative have asked me whether or not I think we should allow ourselves more time to reach our goal. Others have told me that they do not think it is possible to achieve this much improvement in a mere fourteen months. While I know that this is an aggressive target and it will take our intense focus throughout the year to achieve this goal, I ask you, “Is it all right to deliver ‘okay’ care?”

Think about it. Imagine you have a patient sitting in front of you right now—would you feel good about telling them that they will receive “okay” care while they are in one of our UTMB Health hospitals or clinics? Or, would you rather tell the patient and family that they will receive the Best Care when they are at UTMB Health? Shouldn’t Best Care always be our goal? It certainly is mine!

Some of you may be thinking, “I can’t make an impact on Best Care, because I don’t take care of patients.” Although you may not touch a patient, we all impact the patient’s care, their experience, their overall impression of UTMB Health, and in some cases, even their safety. Whether we work in Information Services, Business Operations & Facilities, Revenue Cycle, Human Resources, Materials Management, Clinical Departments, we are part of the patient experience.

Starting today, I want everyone to commit to the Best Care: Every Patient, Every Time! Whether you work in support of patient care in in one of our five hospitals—Jennie Sealy, John Sealy, Angleton Danbury, League City or Hospital Galveston, or in one of our correctional managed care, regional maternal child health, adult or pediatric primary and specialty care clinics, commit today to delivering the Best Care!

This is a big commitment for everyone, but it is one that we must make. From today forward, this will be the focus of my meetings, the focus of my rounds, the focus of our Friday Flash reports, and the emphasis of Friday Focus Newsletter. I look forward to the progress we will make as an organization and to the role YOU will play in assuring that we deliver the Best Care to Every Patient, Every Time!

Our Focus:

  • Efficiency: Decrease length of stay and direct cost as compared to our peers
  • Mortality: Eliminate all preventable deaths (i.e., early sepsis detection, clinical documentation improvement and coding, systems improvements, etc.)
  • Effectiveness: Accelerate reduction in 30-day readmissions and Emergency Department throughput
  • Safety: Eliminate all preventable patient safety events (i.e., postoperative sepsis; perioperative hemorrhage / hematoma; pressure ulcers; and central line-associated blood stream infections, etc.)
  • Maintain performance in patient-centeredness and equity

Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.

—Lou Holtz


Oh Baby, It’s a New Hospital!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemTomorrow we celebrate another historic moment at UTMB Health. On Saturday, June 4 at 8:00 a.m., we will open the new UTMB Health League City Hospital!

Everyone at UTMB has worked very hard this year, and wonders have been worked, indeed! It has been an incredible year of accomplishments, but without the teamwork and dedication that took place among UTMB employees, we could not have achieved such success. From new clinics to the opening of Jennie Sealy Hospital, from the new innovations our employees are developing daily to the outstanding care you deliver to our patients and their families, I think we can all unanimously agree—it takes a village!

The new 150,000 square foot facility is a welcome addition to the League City community. There are many UTMB patients in the area who already see UTMB physicians, but prefer to be hospitalized in the area, as well. Now, they can receive the care they need close to home, whether in our specialty clinics on the campus, our League City Urgent Care Clinic, or in the new 24-hour emergency department with full diagnostic capabilities. For patients who are admitted to the new hospital for an overnight stay following the delivery of a child or surgical procedure, they can now remain close to home and to their loved ones as they recuperate.

Meanwhile, for our patients who may require more acute care or who simply need access to primary care and services so they can stay well long into the future, they will also have continued access to a full complement of services throughout the UTMB Health System.

UTMB’s ongoing growth is possible because we have built a reputation for providing quality, patient-focused care, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to support the health care needs of the League City community. I would like formally thank everyone who has contributed to the activation and opening of League City Hospital for our patients in the area. Congratulations to all on the opening of our new hospital!