Five Questions (and a Comment)
It's the last Friday of the month so today I'll answer your questions.
Before I begin I want to thank those of you who submitted your “good ideas” to the column last Friday. I had about 30 submissions and a number of them have real promise to help us save, grow or improve. Please keep them coming. In a few months I'll share the best of them here.
Just as a reminder, I read all of your questions and comments and appreciate each and every one. I'm able to answer some of them directly but I pass the rest on to others for review and possible action.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: For the last few days I have been particularly aware of some gentlemen volunteers wandering the halls. When I have been so fortunate to run into them, they always have something nice and cheerful to say. It will not be very long from their encounter with me that they will come across a group of people who look like they need help. Without skipping a beat, the volunteer will immediately come to their aid in whatever capacity is needed. Our hospital can be a difficult place to navigate, especially for those with disabilities, small children in tow, etc. It has made me glad to see these gentlemen in action. I just wanted you to know what a great job they are doing in putting a friendly face on UMMC.
A: Thank you for passing this comment along; I have shared with the Volunteer Office staff, who call themselves “the warm and fuzzy department.” We appreciate our volunteers! Aside from helping lost folks find their way, they are often an extra set of hands (or feet) for our staff and they offer patients and families support they need with whatever they're going through. We couldn't do without our wonderful volunteers. I am often asked, “How do you go about becoming a UMMC volunteer?” If you know someone who is interested, here is the link: https://www.ummchealth.com/volunteer/
Q: What is the purpose of the new stop signs in the stadium parking lot and other areas? They seem to cause a lot of traffic congestion, especially in the morning.
A: You are one of about half a dozen people who have complained about the stop signs since they were installed a couple of weeks ago. I asked UMMC Police Chief Michael Stamps about this and here is his reply: “In light of a recent accident involving a pedestrian and motorist in the stadium parking area, the UMMC Police Department, along with Physical Facilities, conducted a traffic assessment to determine what, if any, traffic control measures were needed. During the assessment, it was noted that there were areas within the stadium parking confines where pedestrians and motorists converged frequently. Motorists speeding by these areas was one of the greatest safety concerns at some of the pedestrian crossings. Therefore, it was determined that at those locations where pedestrians were likely to cross into traffic, stop signs would deter motorists from speeding in those areas.” Chief Stamps also indicated they will monitor the signs to make sure they are having their intended effect but we will always err on the side of safety.
Q: I have already experienced a layoff due to budget cuts in the grant I was paid from about six years ago. I was more fortunate than others to find another place at UMMC. Now that I am about three short years from retirement I am concerned about losing my job again, only this time I worry that I will lose my retirement as well, which I have worked so long and hard for. This would be a terrible injustice. No matter how much a person is appreciated for a job well done, appreciation and loyalty do not help in the light of losing retirement. Is loss of retirement a reality or not?
A: I encourage you to contact our Benefits Office in Human Resources or PERS for detailed answers to your questions. UMMC and PERS are separate entities, and no UMMC budget reduction or layoff could cause “loss of retirement.” Everyone's retirement situation is a little different, so it's best for you to talk to a PERS representative at 601-359-3589 or firstname.lastname@example.org. With all that said, I will repeat what I explained here last month, that I do not anticipate another round of layoffs like the one we experienced in March, and in fact, I expect we will add jobs in areas where we continue to grow.
Q: Any update on the search for a new chair for the Department of Medicine?
A: The search for a new chair of the Department of Medicine is one of several high-level searches underway. I'm not directly involved at this point but my understanding is we have received a good response from our initial announcement of the opening. A number of candidates are now having preliminary telephone interviews to determine which ones will be brought to campus for a first round of in-person interviews. Other searches are underway for a chair of pathology and a chief human resources officer.
Q: Is it possible we could have an on-campus daycare facility? I believe it would be very beneficial for the employees here.
A: I receive this question about once a month and spoke to it in an earlier VC Notes, so I know that on-site child care would be greatly valued by many of our employees. I was hopeful this was something we could take a close look at in calendar year 2016, but unfortunately we began experiencing financial headwinds at mid-year and a few other developments have dominated our attention. We are currently searching for a new chief human resources officer, under whose purview this question will fall. When that person is in place, I will ask him/her to evaluate this important issue.
Q: I have noticed a lack of communication between many departments. This is negatively affecting my department and other departments. The directors will have meetings without any of the frontline staff who could give a more accurate description of the obstacles they face. Instead we are left out of the meetings, and this causes a lot of confusion and frustration. In the meetings many questions and obstacles are never mentioned. In our department our directors do not have a full understanding of what we do. When we try to make suggestions they are ignored and many times our directors give misinformation of what we do to other departments, which leads to more frustration. It seems like a never-ending cycle.
A: Of all the issues that large organizations struggle with, communication is near the top of the list. I'm sure that's a byproduct of their size and complexity, but it's also a function of organizational culture. I'm hopeful we are moving toward a more open and transparent culture, but that tends to occur in pockets and is heavily dependent on leaders in those areas. We have worked to bring improved communication through the eCV newsletter, Leadership Rounds, this weekly column and other initiatives, but the truth is the most important communication occurs within and among departments, as you indicate. It has become increasingly apparent that not all of our managers and senior leaders have had the benefit of adequate training to communicate effectively with subordinates. One of the initiatives I will ask HR to develop is a more structured professional development program to equip our leaders at all levels to be more effective communicators. In the meantime, my question to all who are reading this is, What are you doing to support good communication practices at UMMC?
Good communication is one of the important ways we honor each other with the respect every person working here deserves and is a necessary ingredient to stronger engagement in our work and our mission to achieve A Healthier Mississippi.