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Efficiency, people and empowerment – Leadership Assembly takeaways

Feb. 16, 2022, 3:33 PM

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, talked about VUMC’s priorities moving into the next fiscal year at the February 2022 Leadership Assembly.
Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, talked about VUMC’s priorities moving into the next fiscal year at the February 2022 Leadership Assembly. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

by Holly Fletcher

A multitude of trends, from higher patient volumes to economic inflation and a competitive labor market, require agility and emphasis on strengthening Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s supportive, empowered culture as COVID-19 ebbs and flows.

Ensuring that its workforce is prepared to thrive and adapt in an ever-shifting landscape is the priority moving into the next fiscal year, Medical Center leaders said during streaming of the February 2022 Leadership Assembly.

“You have gone above and beyond, providing extraordinary care to millions of people throughout this region. That’s involved every person in this Medical Center. You make us not only effective, but truly indispensable to the people of this region. What you have done is make sure Middle Tennessee is cared for, and that care has led to thousands of stories of hope and inspiration,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.


Leaving Y2K where it belongs — in the past

The Medical Center is starting the transition of dozens of business systems, including those used by the Department of Finance, Supply Chain and Human Resources, to Workday, a single cloud-based enterprise resource planning system, or ERP, said John F. Manning, Jr., PhD, MBA, VUMC’s Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Chief of Staff.

“MyWorkday will touch every person at VUMC in some way. It will keep business operations up to date with industry best practices and sustain our ongoing growth,” said Manning.

Collaborations and day-to-day interactions with VUMC’s regional campuses and remote staff will be more streamlined and simpler under MyWorkday, said Cecelia Moore, MHA, CPA, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer.

The new platform will also ease the training demands for new hires who have to onboard to current systems, which in some instances had original installations in 1984 and 2000.

“It’s going to be a benefit to our growth and flexibility. It gives us the ability to continue to grow and to have a real-time system that looks like technology we are already using in other parts of our lives,” said Moore.

The MyWorkday transition will reflect the 2017 implementation of Epic, with information communicated in the form of emails, town halls, training sessions and super users in each department to help with the transition. The transition to MyWorkday will culminate in a “go live” event during the next fiscal year, said Amy Schoeny, PhD, Chief Human Resources Officer.

MyWorkday will be a one-stop shop when employees are looking for HR resources and access to expense submissions as well as the hub for administrative processes.

“This will be a transformative change. It will cut out the hunt-and-peck across sites. It will require us to work differently, but it will have great benefits,” said Schoeny. “We’ve grown so tremendously over the years; we really need a system infrastructure to underpin the growth. We’re really excited about the future ahead.”


Help (constantly) wanted

C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, outlined VUMC’s efforts to retain employees and attract new ones.
Wright Pinson, M.D., M.B.A., Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, speaks during the filming of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Leadership Assembly on Friday, February 4, 2022 at Skyway Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Erin O. Smith

Retention is VUMC’s top strategic priority this fiscal year and will continue to be a focus as the labor market remains competitive.

The Medical Center’s approach emphasizes both keeping existing, loyal employees and adding to the bench with new hires, said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer. Nurses and allied health personnel are now above the market median in salary; given how fierce competition is, leaders are working to stay ahead of changes in the labor market, he said.

There is a multipronged effort to stay competitive and drive hiring, such as increasing presence on recruitment-related social media platforms, instituting employee referral bonuses and expanding nurse residency capacity. Changes to the interviewing and background check process “helped shave two days off our time-to-fill,” Pinson said.


Fueling for the journey

More patients are coming to VUMC’s clinics — underscoring the attention to hiring and retention.

Total patient volume is up 17% over last year while new patient volume is up 19%, Pinson said, adding it demonstrates the “market has a growing confidence in VUMC.” MyHealth at Vanderbilt usage, telehealth appointments and the goal of seeing new patients within two weeks are priorities, he said.

The patient demand and competitive job market on top of macroeconomic factors, including inflation and supply chain disruptions, heighten the need for each department to be diligent on costs and keeping expenses low, Pinson said, adding “we need to think about how we can do our work differently and more efficiently.”


No person is an island

The stress and volatility of the last two years continues to take a toll on VUMC’s workforce. Results from a staff well-being survey in October unsurprisingly showed most people said the pandemic impacted well-being. However, results showed that people now, more than ever, feel more supported by and connected to supervisors, said Balser.

“What that tells me is the hard work we’ve all done at Vanderbilt for years and years to build a culture of ‘us’ rather than ‘me’ is really working. And at this time of personal and professional stress, that commitment to care for not only our patients, but for one another, is growing — and it’s empowering,” said Balser.

It is vital to nurture the culture by:

  • Serving and listening to the team
  • Generating hope and inspiration
  • Communicating purpose
  • Being human!

The focus on culture is paramount in the retention and recruitment efforts.

“We have welcomed 5,300 new hires so far this year. Now more than ever, leaders connecting with their teams and supporting engagement is critical to continuing the improvements,” said Pinson.

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