Longview Regional Medical Center: Jill Bayless Berney, Chief Operating Officer

by HCE Exchange on November 1, 2010

In the two-hospital town of Longview in East Texas sits one of Modern Healthcare Magazine’s recent top 100 best places to work. Longview Regional Medical Center was ranked 35th in 2009, in fact, and the 30-year old hospital is proud of that fact.

Longview Regional is the smaller of the two hospitals in town with 131 beds, almost 700 employees and over 200 active physicians. They expect about 24,000 emergency room patients per year and will perform close to 12,000 surgeries in 2010. “We’re a very busy facility with an extremely diverse service line  for our bed capacity,” says Jill Bayless Berney, Chief Operating Officer.

Good for the Patient Equals Good for the Employee

Berney summarizes Longview’s culture as created by people wanting to do the right thing. “We have very good physician satisfaction here. We measure that yearly,” she says. “We want to provide a good environment for our staff and we want to provide safe and excellent care for our patients. I think all of those things together make for a great place to work.”

One process that has worked for Longview is taking not only mandated safety standards that come via joint commission or other regulatory bodies, but keeping an eye to events within the hospital and focusing on safety from a multi-disciplinary point of view. “We have safety rounds led by our administration weekly,” she says. “It always includes someone from the physical plant, someone from risk management, someone from housekeeping, someone from nursing, someone from infection control and someone from the quality department.

In short, they are making rounds to different departments within the hospital on a weekly basis and rotating between clinical and non-clinical departments. “We go into those areas and look at all the standards and how they are being applied.  We try to have a fresh pair of eyes look at those areas. Is there a problem here? Is there something being done here that might benefit one area at the detriment of another?”

The group is always asking questions. “Did you feel safe when you walked outside at night?” or “How quickly was your call light answered?”

“We’re a team of eyes going around and looking at patient and safety initiatives. We’ve found it to be quite effective in preparing for surveys, but also to heighten awareness for people. We’ve been doing that for over four years now and have really found it to be so effective that we use it in teaching administrative specialists here. We’ll take them around so it heightens their awareness of those things as well. It’s been good for all of us. We think we’ve seen an improvement in patient safety, but in employee safety as well.”

Expansion Projects

Longview is currently expanding its cardiology department, again!  “Last year we added our second cath lab, which is really a combination or hybrid model of a cath lab, radiology and intervention room. So it is utilized not only by our cardiologists, but also our radiologists. This is a model you don’t usually see. We purposely selected equipment that would be excellent for both our radiologists and our cardiologists to use and it has been so immediately effective that we realized the need for an additional one.” A second hybrid is underway and is expected to become operational in the mid 4th quarter, 2010.

As well, the hospital has just added a vein center for lower extremity peripheral vascular disease screenings. They will be opening two more operating rooms in the ambulatory surgery center. Eventually, they will have four operating rooms and four gastro-intestinal procedure rooms. “Those are some of the ways our capital dollars are being spent right now,” says Berney.

Challenges

“I think one of the things that keeps me awake at night is the changing face and availability of staff,” says Berney. “For instance, we are fully staffed in our pharmacy right now, but it’s always difficult to get new pharmacists. What if someone leaves? How will we replace that person? We don’t have a pharmacy school here in Longview, so that’s one of my huge worries.”

Berney thinks about quality of staff, as well. “I want them to be able to come in and feel like what they are doing is making a difference and that their input is valued, because when employees feel valued, they give their best, and that’s when your organization gets better.”

Then, of course, there is the constantly changing reimbursement models and regulatory issues. But change, for Berney, isn’t always worrisome.

“Weekly we have doctors in the administrative area saying, ‘Gosh, I’d really like to see us get this,’ or ‘If we had this we could look at this other kind of care delivery or we could start doing this new procedure.’ That’s the fun part – to talk about something in theory and then make a plan for it and put it into operation. That’s why I’m still doing what I’m doing.”

“Healthcare is never static, but if we keep our three constituents always at the forefront, we will always make good decisions. First is to always keep the patients’ benefits in mind. Following that, to make it a good environment for staff and physicians to work in. When you have a good culture where those things interact well, and you’re keeping patient safety and good outcomes at the forefront, you just can’t lose.”

“Having said that, do it in a dynamic environment where you make it a little bit fun. If you look at doing things in a different way, it makes for a good work environment and a really good place for patients.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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