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Supporting ‘Team VUMC’: Leadership Assembly Highlights

Aug. 12, 2022, 8:11 AM


by Holly Fletcher

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, discussed results of VUMC’s Culture Survey during the Leadership Assembly.
Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, discussed results of VUMC’s Culture Survey during the Leadership Assembly. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

Growth across both Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities it serves spotlights the need to bolster collaboration and communication to efficiently provide care to patients and ensure well-being of the workforce, Medical Center leaders said during streaming of the August 2022 Leadership Assembly.

The 2022 Culture Survey showcased the deep commitment of the VUMC workforce, with an overwhelming majority indicating that their employment meets or exceeds their expectations. It also illuminated the fatigue of working through the pandemic in a region that continues to grow, bringing more patients to VUMC.

“Almost 80% of us filled out the survey, which is an amazing response. I see this strong turnout as a surrogate for how deeply our colleagues care about the atmosphere at VUMC. Thank you for speaking up and encouraging your teammates to do so,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. When compared with the survey vendor’s national health care benchmark, VUMC’s overall engagement results approach the top quartile in performance.

C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, talked about retention and hiring efforts across the enterprise.
C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, talked about retention and hiring efforts across the enterprise. (photo by Erin O. Smith)


Growing ‘Team VUMC’

Retention of current staff remains a top priority moving into the new fiscal year, said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer.

Hiring over the last fiscal year set a record with 11,000 offers accepted, but shortages remain so the Medical Center is continuing a variety of recruitment efforts including a broad advertising campaign and incentives for success referrals. The hiring campaign “Join Us” runs through the summer across Middle Tennessee and into parts of southern Kentucky.

“As an organization, our most significant challenge is attracting and keeping qualified and enthusiastic staff. That came across clearly in this year’s Culture Survey results. And I agree,” said Pinson. “We want people like you who are eager to work in our environment and be a part of the history we create every day at VUMC.”

Innovative programs such as the new training programs for medical assistants and care partners are structured to offer career pathways while targeting the positions VUMC needs to fill. The programs are beginning to show early progress, said Balser.


Explain the ‘Why’

Employees overwhelmingly trust their managers and feel supported, according to survey results. There is less clarity about the reasons some decisions are made, Balser said, noting that’s a common outcome when the environment moves as quickly as it has over the last two-and-a-half years.

Medical Center leaders are encouraged to regularly talk about the factors and context behind decisions and projects. Establishing channels of discussion about priorities and goals will improve insight into the strategy of projects and ensure people are aligned on why change is happening, Balser said.

“The engagement results are a barometer of our culture, and research consistently shows the relationship between engagement and other really important outcomes like turnover, patient satisfaction and innovation. Leaders are essential to creating an engaging environment and to the work we do every day supporting our teams: making good use of their skills and abilities, empowering their decision making and providing feedback and recognition,” said Amy Schoeny, PhD, Chief Human Resources Officer.

The environment around VUMC, including persistent spikes in COVID-19 infection rates and economic uncertainty, continues to weigh on people, and that fatigue showed up in the survey result, Balser said. Hiring, retention and increased communication are important priorities to support teams during these challenging times.

Amy Schoeny, PhD, left, and Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, talked about diversity and inclusion efforts.
Amy Schoeny, PhD, left, and Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, talked about diversity and inclusion efforts. (photo by Susan Urmy)

You are Welcome

Impact from VUMC’s strategic direction to make diversity and inclusion intentional are showing up in survey responses. Responses to three central questions scored positively in the survey: Can I be myself at work? Do I feel as if I belong? Does everyone have opportunity to be successful?

However, when the responses are disaggregated by race and ethnicity, there are areas for improvement in making sure everyone can see themselves having success at VUMC and that they are treated fairly, said Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Chief Equity Officer for VUMC and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence for VUSM.

In the fall, there will be a survey with about 30 questions to assess the diversity, equity and inclusion climate, focusing on inclusive leadership, inclusive teams, fair processes, psychological safety, and microaggressions, said Wilkins.

“Our goal should be that everyone at VUMC feels they belong, and we still have work to do,” said Balser.


Moving the Needle

With increases in both returning and new patient visits in clinics as well as increasing demand for inpatient beds, finding new ways to support the needs of VUMC’s employees as they provide high quality care and connect with patients is vital, said Pinson.

Construction will begin this year on VUMC’s largest expansion to-date, a 16-floor, 430,000 square foot Vanderbilt University Hospital tower that will be built on the footprint of the 60-year-old Oxford House.

The new VUH tower will add approximately 180 inpatient beds along with 10 operating rooms, radiology services, multiple specialty clinics, a spacious lobby and new administrative office space.

Use of the patient portal My Health at Vanderbilt (MHAV) continues to climb, and new features are routinely offering more efficient ways for all patients, including everyone in the Vanderbilt Health Plan, to interact with their care teams.

The total active MHAV users are up more than 5% over last year, and the digital interface will be really important going forward, said Pinson.

Developing alternative patient care models is a central tenet of the clinical enterprise, and success with Clinical Pathways and “Bundle Pricing” tends to minimize out-of-pocket costs and tailors care to the patient, said Pinson. Care bundles, including the OB bundle, have been warmly received by many Health Plan members.

VUMC’s research enterprise exceeded its targets for FY’22, which is a “testament to the continued, robust new funding and activity related to high profile clinical trials and translational and basic science research,” said Pinson.

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