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Gundersen Boscobel's Reaching New Heights initiative celebrates one-year anniversary

Thursday, March 30, 2017


It has been one year since Gundersen Boscobel began an internal initiative titled - Reaching New Heights. This employee-led work has inspired new programs, process improvements, and achieved many successes. Here's a little history and behind the scenes look at the initiative.

Reaching New Heights

After a successful 2015, Gundersen Boscobel wanted to continue the positive trends occurring. "We were looking for value-added initiatives, intended to help take the organization to the next level. We had started on a path of improvement, and this was a logical next step to keep things moving forward, building upon the foundation we had been working on," said Melissa Uselman, CFO.

There were a number of possible resources for this work, but an organization named Capstone Leadership was chosen to offer the most seamless transition. "Capstone was founded by two strong, talented Nurse Leaders with a track record of their own successes in rural hospitals. We felt they would be great partners for our specific needs," said David Hartberg, Gundersen Boscobel CEO.
Capstone encouraged Gundersen Boscobel to brand and personalize their own work. After thoughtful consideration, the campaign was named Reaching New Heights, which was designed to match the rolling bluffs of the area and to reflect the new levels the initiatives were to take the organization. "Reaching New Heights was designed to empower our employees to help improve things that they feel needed improving," stated Hartberg. "The great people working here would come up with ideas and help take the organization to new levels."

After an initial assessment by Capstone, a year one work plan was established and three areas were to be focused on in the initiative: patient experience, employee experience, and nursing best practices. Capstone and Gundersen Boscobel Leadership crafted three teams made up of high performing front line employees to work in these three areas. Teams are multidisciplinary in nature, as well as in length of service and age. "This kind of variety typically allows employee teams to come up with the most unique ideas," Uselman explained. "The truth is everyone is affected in the areas of patient and employee experience—not just in their employment, but in their lives." Uselman is the "Initiative Champion," tasked with overseeing the entire project.

Another initial step was training the entire staff on how to "connect the dots" on the journey to excellence, and to realize that while there had been pockets of great, how to hardwire great into every experience by every team was the task. As the initiative has progressed, each of the teams has provided staff updates and trainings on the new programs and initiatives. The following offers a glimpse into each of the three team's objectives, projects, and story behind their uniquely self-chosen names.

"Ascenders" is the team tasked with patient experience. Their team name stems from their charge to help take or "ascend" the patient experience from good to great. At a recent staff development day, a new form of service recovery was rolled out. This program empowers and guides employees on the appropriate steps to take when there is a service failure and offers a toolkit of options for staff to make things right in the situation for the patient. Additionally, a Grateful Patient program was initiated, where patients can leave compliments for employees whose work was distinctive. Upcoming projects include wayfinding—developing a better method of directing patients around the sometimes complex facilities; telephone etiquette standards and working toward a blame-free workplace. "The work of the Ascenders is all about the patient. We strive to develop a culture that offers outstanding service and care delivery," shared team captain, Eric Swan, Director of Community Relations.

"Ubergrippens," a rockclimbing term that refers to the finding of a good handhold to lift one upwards, is the team in charge of enhancing employee satisfaction. The Ubergrippens have tackled projects around employee behavioral standards and are finding ways to make the new employee orientations more personal and special. Upcoming, they will be supporting the annual Employee Perspective Survey, and promoting several events for National Healthcare Week, culminating with a second annual Teddy Bear Clinic on May 13th. At a recent "Let's Talk" breakfast session with Gundersen Health Systems CEO Scott Rathgaber, MD, employees were thanked for their efforts and informed about future system-wide endeavors. "We've done some great things as a team, and employees are commenting on the noted changes" said Jenny Dax, Director of Human Resources, noting employee engagement has gone up in 2016 to a national ranking of the top 82% of all hospitals.

The final team is known as RNH Code, which stands for Reaching New Heights Collaborating Opportunities for Developing Empowerment. This team's mission is based on improving nursing practices, and it consists of all registered nurses. Their initial work has focused on projects to improve patient care delivery and patient satisfaction from a nursing perspective: a Bedside Shift Report to improve bedside manner and introduce the patient to the nurse involved in their care; a Teach-Back Method to increase patients' retention of home instructions and understanding of care delivery; and discharge phone calls, made to verify patients aren't left with important questions once they return home. "As the leader of patient care departments, it has been rewarding to observe patients getting the best care and nursing staff taking renewed pride in their work," reported Theresa Braudt, Assistant Administrator of Patient Care Services.

Three teams, given a framework, but the opportunity to personalize their work, has meant great accomplishments in a relatively short time. "Empowerment is an amazing thing that way. When you involve all, people are both thankful, and inspired. We are very proud and fortunate where that inspiration has led," concluded Hartberg.

As for the future? "We intend to keep the teams in place. This was intended to be a continuous improvement EXPERIENCE—not just one year," Uselman said in closing. The administrative team at Gundersen Boscobel always solicits feedback. "We value input and take it very seriously."


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