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Leadership-Staff Retreat Offers Big-Picture Perspective

It was only 7:30 a.m., but the room was already pulsing with Black Eyed Peas’ ballad "I Gotta Feeling” as staff sipped coffee and scribbled down answers to trivia questions, eagerly awaiting the start of Strong Memorial’s first ever cross-disciplinary retreat with hospital leadership.

“We’ve taken time to create a fun, informative atmosphere today, but make no mistake--we’re very serious about getting your feedback on our organizational priorities and how well we’re working to achieve them,” Chief Operating Officer Kathy Parrinello told attendees in her opening remarks.

“Naturally, we want to take time to clearly and succinctly share our vision for the future,” she said. “That’s why the first part of our day focuses so heavily on ‘big picture’ talks. Together, they give the 30,000-foot view of the challenges and opportunities we face--providing a critical foundation for the work that will come in the second half of our program, when we break into cross functional teams to brainstorm ideas for making our workplace better.” Leadership Conference

In the spirit of promoting a real-time, two-way discourse, each attendee received a small remote-control clicker to cast their vote on survey questions that flashed on the main screen between presentations.

Laying the Groundwork: ‘Big Picture’ Talks

The first half of the retreat focused on bringing staff up to speed on Strong Memorial’s real pressures--and real potential. The following leaders spoke:

CEO Steve Goldstein explored how large, multifaceted organizations like Strong keep lithe and move forward in challenging times. By taking a decade-long look back at our strategic journey to expand since the late 90s (acquiring affiliates like VNS, Highland, our nursing homes), navigate complex insurance issues, and capture regional market share, Goldstein assured attendees that we plan to just as aggressively surmount today’s challenges (among them: accessibility, spiraling care costs, and value-based purchasing--which forces the hospital to deliver high-quality, affordable care in lean times). Goldstein emphasized that each of us, working together, is essential to our organization’s long-term success.

COO Kathy Parrinello gave attendees an up-close look at the hospital’s mission and vision statements, tactical management plan, and diagrams illustrating how various priorities (safety, quality, patient- and family-centered care, continued growth, more integrated care delivery) and tools (lean methodology, new information technology infrastructure, like eRecord, etc.) all promote a single purpose: Creating an unparalleled patient experience.

Chief Quality Officer (or self-dubbed "chief worrier”) Bob Panzer, M.D., discussed how issues of care quality have moved beyond governmental and private watch groups and into the general public’s radar. In light of the hundreds of quality markers now under scrutiny, Panzer emphasized the importance of creating a hospital-wide culture of reliability and consistent care, rather than just “pockets of excellence.”

Director of Recruitment, Retention and Succession Planning Barb Egenhofer concentrated on the importance of creating loyal and enthusiastic employees, emphasizing the irrefutable link between a happy, satisfied staff and first-class care/service. She also unveiled our hospital wide results from the spring engagement survey--saying that leaders at the department  and organization levels are taking this feedback to heart, using the findings to inform their decisions and rethink “business as usual.”

Director of the Strong Commitment Jackie Beckerman focused on why (1) consistently practicing the ICARE behaviors (modeling integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and excellence in every interaction) and (2) valuing the unique expertise families bring to the medical team are fundamental to our career satisfaction, our care outcomes, even our financial reimbursement (as we’re increasingly paid for performance).

Chief Nursing Officer Patricia Witzel followed with an in-depth look into the kind of culture that breeds errors--and how teamwork and close communication can change the tone of a patient’s experience from contention to cooperation.

Each speaker invited audience questions along the way, spurring feedback and a healthy dialogue.

Cross-Functional Work Groups

As talks wound down, retreat attendees broke into 20-person teams for brainstorming power-sessions. Each team was tasked with addressing a challenge--for instance: How can we improve communications--both organization-wide and at the department level?”; “How can we cultivate a greener, leaner workplace?”; “How can we boost recognition and rewards for staff?”

After spirited discussions, teams selected a representative to present a snapshot of their best ideas to the entire contingent of staff and leaders.

“We’re thrilled at the sharp insights from staff and are already looking into ways to implement some of the ideas they’ve come up with,” Egenhofer said.

Staff Say They ‘Want More’

Overwhelmingly, the response from staff was positive, with almost 92 percent of attendees expressing that they felt better informed of Strong’s plans for the future. Another 96 percent found the sessions educational and engaging, saying the retreat was good for morale, and helped them to better appreciate how they fit in as a “piece of the hospital puzzle.”

“I enjoyed this retreat a great deal,” said Nancy Anselm, a patient representative at the Sawgrass Surgery Center. “It didn’t feel like a series of lectures, but rather a presentation of positive information with a great deal of give and take, interspersed with humor. And to hear that we’re making progress towards better serving patients--really embracing the ICARE values and involving patients in their own care--that’s extremely exciting! It makes me very proud to be a part of this ‘people-oriented’ organization.”

Beth Gilliam, a cashier at the House of Six Nations, couldn’t agree more.

“In our department, though we interface with staff from all parts of the hospital all day long, we rarely have the chance to go deeper and really learn what the greater goals are, what the organization is striving toward,” she said. “The speakers were impressive. They really gave us a sense of why we’re here and where we’re headed.” Buoyed by the success of the first retreat, Egenhofer says she anticipates holding this sort of retreat event quarterly, targeting the next retreat for early 2012.

“That way, we can cycle in a couple hundred different staff each time, eventually giving everyone a chance to experience this day away,’” she said.

“It’s absolutely essential for staff to connect with leaders, to be aware of the organization’s vision, and most importantly, to have a voice in the process. Staff have made that clear. We’re listening.

Scott Hancock | 12/1/2011 | 0 comments

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