Today I’ll answer your questions. As a reminder, I read all of your questions and appreciate this feedback so much. I’m not able to answer all of them in VC Notes, but I pass the rest along to senior administrators for review and possible action. Please keep them coming.
I checked our response rate for the Employee Engagement survey and we are at 66 percent this morning. I hope everyone will make a big push to help us reach (and exceed!) our 80 percent participation rate goal by the close of the survey August 7.
And now, on to your questions.
Q: A smile and making eye contact goes a long way in the perception visitors have of our institution. But how can we smile when we have our faces buried in our phones? UMMC has a phone problem. And I am guilty, too. One recent morning, as I was walking into the main entrance from the stadium, I did a very quick survey of employees while walking to my office. Of the 22 employees I passed, 16 of them had their heads down and appeared to be texting on their phones while walking. Not only is this a huge problem with distracted walkers, it just looks bad. My family and I made a trip to a theme park this summer, and signs were posted EVERYWHERE – “Use your phone, lose your job” – and I didn't see one single employee using their phone. While I'm not suggesting we adopt that philosophy, as I know there are times some must use their phones, I do wish we could have a culture change when it comes to phone usage in public areas. It gives the perception that our employees are not engaged, are goofing off (even if they are not), and is just unprofessional, in my opinion. This is not isolated to one group of employees, either: I've seen leadership, physicians, nurses, housekeepers, pharmacists – and the list goes on and on. This doesn't even touch on using phones in work areas, meetings, etc. In our quest for improving the patient experience, quality health care and a culture of safety, putting the phones away is a great step in the right direction.
A: I could not have said this any better, so thank you. I’m one of those who believes that the use of our smartphones has gotten somewhat out of control, in the workplace and elsewhere. And yes, at times I am guilty of this myself. There are some rules in place governing cell phone etiquette in our Standards Guide on the Intranet, but my sense is many employees are not aware of these guidelines and they are only minimally enforced. This issue is complicated by the fact that sometimes during our busy day our only time to check-in with the office, a colleague or a personal contact is during the walk between meetings. In addition, increasingly our employees rely on texting to coordinate clinic operations, for example, so a smartphone is literally a tool to get the job done. As I mentioned in this space recently, there is a broad-based effort under way to revise and update our Standards Guide, encompassing the input of all employees and students. In the meantime, I hope everyone will heed the good advice you offer above.
Q: I wish the employee survey would apply more to ALL employees. It seems like the Press Ganey survey is geared toward direct patient care employees. I understand that patient safety is important, but why is 75 percent of the new survey aimed at that and patient care? What about the other employees at UMMC?
A: It could be that there were more questions geared toward clinical employees because of your role. If you work in a clinical environment or provide support to those areas, you were asked to take the Culture of Safety Survey this year, while employees in non-clinical areas were not. Also, there were additional questions on the survey this year that were administered only to certain employees in nursing roles. So for those two reasons, the combined surveys did indeed skew significantly toward clinical questions. I do feel, however, that the basic engagement survey is a good blend of topics applicable to both clinical and non-clinical employees.
Q: Since parking garages A and B have both been cleaned up, will there be any chance of long-term employees getting to pay to park in a garage? Some of us have worked at UMMC for over 20 years!
A: I have noticed lately there does seem to be additional unused capacity in our garages and other on-campus parking lots. I have assumed that some of this is due to the fact that it’s summer and people are on vacation. Staff in charge of our parking lots tell me what appears to be unused capacity in our on-campus parking areas will be used to accommodate employees whose parking assignments will be impacted during the Children’s expansion project. We made the decision to not move employees out of the stadium just to have them move back to the stadium when this project starts. Once we have relocated and accommodated all of the current employees with on-campus parking, the remaining spaces will be allocated based on the criteria outlined in the Parking Policy.
Q: I am a third-year DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) student and have really enjoyed my time at UMMC. However, the rising cost of tuition has really shocked me. Tuition has increased 23 percent from my first year of school to what I have begun paying this year. In any other business, it would be unacceptable for the same product to inflate that much in only two years. As a student, it is scary for the steep increase because our starting salary is not increasing that quickly, so paying off loans will be much more difficult. Why is tuition increasing so drastically? And is there something we can do to prevent such steep increases?
A: The overall tuition increase for all programs was larger than we initially projected this year due to a larger-than-expected budget cut from the state for the current fiscal year – approximately $23 million less than we were budgeted at the beginning of last year. In addition, tuition for the DPT program has recently been raised even more than the across-the-board increase to bring it in line with the tuition of our other programs and those of our peer institutions. We are sensitive to the debt levels of our students, and have purposefully limited tuition increases over the years. Overall, our tuition levels are competitive compared to those of our peers.
Q: Good afternoon, Dr. Woodward. We have a lot of people that will never enter the doors of the new medical school or the new translational research buildings but are proud and interested in seeing the fruits of their labor. Can you all do a virtual tour so that those that are interested can see them? Thanks!
A: I’m so glad you asked! We have an amazing new School of Medicine building – both beautiful AND functional – and we want as many people as possible to see it before we turn it over to the students and faculty. We have such limited space for the formal dedication next Friday morning that we decided to have an Open House for all Medical Center personnel from 1 to 3 Friday afternoon. A highlight of that will be the 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting in our Simulation Center operating room sponsored by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Fund. If you can’t make it Friday afternoon, we are also holding an Open House for the community on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon. I sincerely hope that anyone who wants to see this new “window wonderland,” as it’s been called, is able to do so. The dedication of the Translational Research Center will be later in the fall and we will have similar plans to make it as widely accessible as possible. I love the idea of “virtual tour” of these state-of-the-art facilities not only for our UMMC community but as a recruiting tool, so thanks for sharing that good idea.
And thanks for using the expression “fruits of their labor” in your question. It’s a reminder that regardless of your job or your role at UMMC, or whether you’re on the Jackson campus or at one of our many other locations across Mississippi, UMMC is the sum total of all of our labor. And that sum total is an awful lot. The fruits of your labor are noticed and appreciated, and are helping us achieve A Healthier Mississippi.