Today is the last Friday of the month, so it's my opportunity to respond to questions and comments you've submitted. As a reminder, I read all your questions and comments and appreciate all of them. I'm not able to answer them all in VC Notes but I forward many of them to others for review and possible action.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: Please make campus security aware that staff leave at different times throughout the night. 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. are not the only shift changes anymore. Staff are walking to and from their cars at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. It's scary and we could so easily be a victim of crime. Thank you.
A: I expect your comment was prompted by reports of the recent late-night abduction of a child from the parking lot of a local business that ended with the child's death. That senseless tragedy has understandably heightened concerns about security. Overall, we have a safe campus environment and a well-trained, professional police force. With that in mind, I asked Chief Michael Stamps of our Campus Police to respond to your comment:
The UMMC Police Department provides escorts during the hours the shuttle service is unavailable (Monday-Friday midnight-5:30 a.m., weekends and holidays). These escorts may include a ride in a patrol vehicle or an officer being present while the employee/student travels to the parking lot. This service is available for all UMMC employees and students by calling 984-1360 or 815-3072. We understand there are variations in the shifts employees work and we have positioned officers in strategic locations to monitor pedestrian and vehicle movement during lower lit hours. Our officers patrol diligently and look for any potential threats to the personal safety of all. As an added safety measure, the UMMC Police Department provides important security pointers to help keep our employees, students and visitors safe while navigating through the campus and parking lots:
• Park in a well-lighted area. Notify Physical Facilities and/or UMMC Campus Police if lights are out or inadequate.
• When returning to your car after dark, check under your car and in your backseat before entering your car. Have your keys in your hand and ready to use.
• Drive with a partner whenever possible. Wear reflective clothing, let someone know where you are going and vary your route.
• Tuck jewelry or flashy items that might attract attention inside your clothes.
• Make a list of all credit cards and account numbers. Report the loss or theft of these cards or keys immediately.
• Lock your doors at all times, even if you are leaving for a brief period of time.
• Be aware of security during vacation/holiday periods when there are fewer people on campus.
Rape, armed robbery and battery are examples of crimes directed against individuals. UMMC police officials have developed techniques to minimize the danger of our employees, students and visitors falling victim to such crimes. Our advice is simple: Remain alert and attentive to potential dangers and avoid risky situations. Always report suspicious incidents to Campus Police immediately by calling 911 on a UMMC land line or 815-7777.
Q: I feel it is unfair to advertise Hospital Week activities when the outlying areas are unappreciated. There is a week full of events for on-campus staff and everyone else gets less notice. It takes everyone to make the hospital succeed.
A: I received a number of comments similar to yours about Hospital Week and Nurses Week and the sense that some of our employees who work off the main campus feel left out of these and other activities. I do want to emphasize that I am aware of and appreciate the contributions of every single UMMC employee and recognize that everybody plays a part in our success. I am aware that the people involved in organizing activities for both of these weeks work hard to involve off-campus locations. If you feel you're not fully “in the loop,” then please reach out to either the Nursing Excellence office (for Nurses Week) or Human Resources (for Hospital Week). Second, while it's true many of these activities are concentrated on the main campus and are therefore less accessible to employees in outlying areas, my suggestion is to work with managers at those locations to organize your own celebration if you are so inclined. (You don't even have to limit it to these topics.) As our resources have become more constrained, Hospital Week activities are carried out on a tiny budget and Nursing Week is paid for by funds raised by nurses themselves. What matters far more than money is the energy and enthusiasm participants bring to these activities, and those “human resources” are available to all.
Q: Dr. Woodward, I'm a longtime employee and have been through many swings with the institution. I am noticing more visible tattoos in the workplace. Once upon a time, employees would at least try and cover or shield such things, but now, most don't even care. I recently saw an employee who had a beautiful tattoo running up her arm with no lab coat on or anything to hide it. Not to single her out, but it was huge. I'm concerned about the image of our staff. I know other issues can be open for discussion (polished nails/acrylic jewelry, correct uniform color for your role and the like). I am not sure where the level of taste gets crossed and who should be observing this behavior in EVERY area. I'm not some old "fuddy duddy,” but we either have rules or we don't. Thanks for any feedback.
A: You are correct that we do have “standards” relating to dress and personal appearance, and one of those standards is that visible tattoos should be covered. (See page 9 of our Standards Guide here on the Intranet.) However, times change and our standards should be updated periodically to reflect the evolving norms of our society. Our personal appearance standards were last updated about seven years ago. My understanding is that a group is now working to review these standards. When that work is completed and approved by senior leadership, these new standards will be widely distributed and publicized throughout UMMC. In the meantime, the current standards generally apply, but a little flexibility is in order as long as we are sensitive to the need to project a professional image to our patients, visitors and colleagues.
Q: I know that different departments set their own goals, but I would like to see better-defined fiscal year goals for UMMC (i.e., 10-percent increase in revenue, 10-percent decrease in readmissions, 2-percent increase in patient satisfaction scores, etc.). There may even be goals like this at the organizational level, but I'm not sure where to find them. If there are, then hopefully we can increase visibility of these fiscal year goals for departments to review. It would be in our best interest to require departments to set FY goals and ensure that some of the department or program goals are aligned with the organizational goals. This will create a sense of accountability at the department level to help the organization meet the overall goals. This will also help each area feel like it is contributing to the overall good of the organization and is not just acting as a gear in a machine. This would also help to set a tone for all the departments to set their goals and maintain accountability for reaching those goals. I think this would help get us all moving in the same direction and make measurable progress to serving our patients and improving health care in our state.
A: Thanks for your timely comment and insights. We do set overall financial and quality goals for both the organization as a whole and for large components like our hospitals. However, I don't know that we have always shared those as widely as we might have. Departments have goals for patient volumes, research productivity and the like, but again, communication of goals to front line staff probably varies from unit to unit. In the weeks ahead as we finalize the budget for Fiscal Year 2018, we will make sure to share these goals throughout the organization.
Q: I love the comments about the volunteers at the main campus. We could definitely use some “warm and fuzzy” volunteers out at the UMMC Cancer Institute to help direct patients to labs, radiology, clinics, etc. Sometimes they just need an assist with getting from treatments to clinics. I have been told that requests for volunteers for the Cancer Institute have been met with no interest, which I find extremely hard to believe. These cancer patients need all the friendly faces we can provide.
A: This is a great idea, and I already referred it to leaders of Volunteer Services and the Cancer Institute for their review and possible action. I think it's fair to say there is enthusiasm on both sides to place volunteers at the Cancer Institute, but it needs to be done in a thoughtful way, making sure that all logistical and compliance issues are considered and that volunteers are deployed where they can be most helpful. There are sometimes barriers to volunteer participation that aren't immediately apparent. We'll see how this initiative progresses over the coming weeks.
Speaking of great ideas, I want to encourage you to keep sending me your bright ideas for enhancing efficiency, increasing revenue or improving the experience of our patients and campus community. Everyone contributes, and everyone's voice matters, on our journey to A Healthier Mississippi.