Dr. Kris Cherry, chief nursing executive, talks with members of UMMC's Sterile Processing Department during rounds. Lindsay McMurtray/ UMMC Communications
Dr. Kris Cherry, chief nursing executive, talks with members of UMMC's Sterile Processing Department during rounds.
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Employee Engagement Survey results inspire change at UMMC

Published on Monday, July 17, 2023

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Photos By: Melanie Thortis and Lindsay McMurtray/ UMMC Communications

University of Mississippi Medical Center employees spoke, and Medical Center leaders are listening.

Results of the 2022 Employee Engagement Survey became the catalyst for changes to make UMMC a better place to work. Since then, UMMC has been working to address concerns ranging from salaries to stress that affect employees across the Medical Center’s mission areas of clinical care, education and research.

“The information our employees provide through the Employee Engagement Survey is vital to Medical Center leaders,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Often, the most successful changes are inspired by the opinions and ideas of our employees.”

In May-June 2022, about 70 percent of UMMC’s 10,000 employees took the survey, administered through Press Ganey, a national leader in improving patient and employee experience.

By September, UMMC’s leadership team had survey results. Training in crucial conversations to boost communications regarding survey results followed from December to February.

“We definitely take employee engagement seriously,” said Dr. Kris Cherry, chief nursing executive. “We encouraged our staff to respond and then held meetings to present results and analyze them so we could identify where the opportunities lie and where we excel, so we can build on those strengths.”

UMMC leaders reviewed survey responses and used the information to identify areas for improvement within departments, gathering input from team members and setting priorities, Cherry said.

“It’s not just improving a score,” she said. “It’s building a healthy work culture where everyone can do their best work possible.”

Assistant director of pharmacy services Andy Ostrenga speaks with Children's of Mississippi leaders during rounds. Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications
Assistant director of pharmacy services Andy Ostrenga speaks with Children's of Mississippi leaders during rounds.

Deadlines were then set for development, review and implementation of action plans, and Medical Center leaders stepped up by making rounds to gather input throughout the process.

“We’re also identifying best practices, tapping into units for ideas that can be shared across the organization,” she said.

Opportunities for improvement revealed by survey results include 64 percent who didn’t agree that UMMC effectively demonstrates the value of its employees through advancement opportunities, career development, adequate compensation and small acts of appreciation.

At an institutional level, UMMC’s strengths compared with national averages included that employees feel the person they report to is a good communicator; employees respect the abilities of the person to whom they report; and employees feel their manager cares about their job satisfaction and encourages teamwork.

LeToya Donelson, an OR scheduler, shares her thoughts during a rounding session with hospital executives. LM
LeToya Donelson, an OR scheduler, shares her thoughts during a rounding session with hospital executives.

The strengths revealed in the survey results as well as opportunities for change sparked ideas for improvements in some areas. Responses also let UMMC leaders know whether changes made before the 2022 survey were on target, said Megan Wylie, director of human resources change management.

"It’s important for our team to know that their voices are important, and their voices are heard,” she said. “We want our employees to feel supported and want to hear from them about what we’re doing well and what we can do better.”

Salaries also were a topic in the survey, with respondents feeling their pay wasn’t fair compared to other health care employers in the area. That underscores the importance of the institution’s workforce compensation plan announced Nov. 2021. When considering all mission areas, more than two-thirds of UMMC’s employees have received an increase in compensation in the past 24 months.

To foster additional improvements across the entire institution, UMMC engaged Sullivan Cotter, a national firm, to review our current compensation practices and provide recommendations on compensation guidelines, performance recognition programs, and conduct a pay structure audit. This work is currently underway and expected to be completed by year end.

UMMC leaders are encouraging employee engagement in all areas of the Medical Center’s mission. A recent example is through rounds in University Hospital and Children’s of Mississippi, asking team members what’s going well and what could be improved.

“I love it,” said Lindsay Stuart, pediatric pharmacy supervisor. “It’s great to have these conversations. I feel heard.”

Broderick Whipps, a technologist in UMMC’s Sterile Processing Department, said rounds with leaders “mean a lot. Our executive coming to see us in person made me really feel appreciated.”

Several initiatives have launched as a result of employee feedback:

  • In the past year, the survey results validated the creation of the UMMC Police and Public Safety Department Behavioral Response Team. Responding to calls including disruptive patient emergencies, known as a Code White, the Behavioral Response Team was formed to defuse situations that could lead to workplace violence and injuries to patients, employees, students and visitors.
  • Survey results indicated that most employees agree that UMMC is an organization that cares about quality improvement. To build on that strength, the Office of Operational Excellence was established to expand best practices in patient care quality as well as safety, outcomes and experiences. Through this effort, the pursuit of excellence at UMMC stretches to operational areas and financial improvement.
  • To celebrate excellence at UMMC, an institutional Awards and Recognition Committee was already at work. This was in response to the “Satisfaction with recognition” results from the survey, underscoring the importance of the committee’s focus. 

Well-being was also a topic in the survey, with only about half of employees agreeing that their amount of job stress was reasonable. To boost those numbers and make UMMC a healthier place to work, the Medical Center is using a $3 million Health Resources and Services Administration health care work force resiliency grant to promote well-being. UMMC is one of only 10 institutions across the United States to receive this funding.

The grant funds are used to support mental health and well-being programs including online mental health screenings and “Take Five” education modules on resilience and a survey assessing key factors of well-being from our Office of Well-being.

The next Employee Engagement Survey cycle dates in 2024 will be set once changes inspired by employees’ 2022 feedback have been implemented.