As we wind down the semester, I think we're all ready for spring to take hold. During these warmer, sunnier days, I hope you are able to get outside for a moment to "smell the flowers," as the saying goes.
It’s the last Friday of the month so today I’ll answer your questions.
You send me a lot of questions – about 50 a month! – and I appreciate all of them. I can’t answer them all here, but I do try to include the ones that seem to be the most relevant to the most people. I pass the rest along to senior administrators for review and possible action.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: I just read the VC Notes discussing the new employee wellness area on the sixth floor of University Hospital. More information please. Why is this not being built out as additional patient rooms? We are constantly on capacity alert, and our length of stay is not getting lower despite efforts. We are seeing sicker patients who are staying longer. If growth is our plan, why are we not using this space for patients and to generate revenue? I agree that an employee wellness area is needed, but why would you take up valuable real estate in a patient care area?
A: You raise a very good question about our capacity issues and how we are addressing them. There are plans in the works to build out shelled space in the adult hospitals to accommodate additional critical care and medical-surgical beds, as well as a project set to begin this summer to build a 30-bed clinical trials unit on 7 South. All of these projects will help alleviate our capacity issues. The demand for additional beds is high at the moment, but national trends and our own projections are that hospitals will need fewer inpatient beds in the future, so we have been very careful about adding beds. On the other hand, our employees have told us for years they want an on-campus fitness area. The cost of building a stand-alone fitness facility is prohibitive, but we can create this space in part of the sixth floor of University Hospital at a fraction of the cost of what it would take to build the same space as a patient care unit. Creating a fitness area, which will be staffed by our co-workers from University Wellness Center, will not change the infrastructure of the building. So if our projections for inpatient demand are not accurate and we need more beds several years from now, we can repurpose this space at that time. I hope this gives you a better understanding of our thinking.
Q: Why are faculty positions not posted on the UMMC employment website as staff positions are? What is the reasoning behind not posting faculty positions?
A: For most of UMMC’s history that I am aware of, faculty have been recruited positions. In general, our faculty positions would draw an insufficient qualified and diverse pool of applicants if we simply posted them on our job posting website. Most of these positions require a national recruitment effort either through search firms or more targeted recruitment via professional associations and other groups. These recruitment efforts are managed at the local school and/or department level by the dean or chair, rather than being handled centrally through Human Resources or, in some cases, Faculty Affairs. Even though this decentralized approach to faculty recruitment will continue to be the norm, I’m told that with the implementation of Workday as our new enterprise management software, faculty openings will also be posted online, so we’ll have the best of both worlds.
Q: As a resident, I had a patient ask me a good question. She would love to be able to access her imaging, not just the radiology reports, on MyChart. The patient is wondering why she can't view her CT scan on her MyChart. Is it possible to allow patients access to view their X-rays, CTs, etc., on their MyChart?
A: I’m glad you asked because I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I’m told Epic is just releasing the ability to show full resolution imaging results in the 2018 version of MyChart that will be going live in July. We should be able to implement this capability following our upgrade, provided we meet the security controls that have been required for web access to UMMC clinical information.
Q: In order to run the operating rooms in the expanded Children's Hospital, UMMC will need to hire a number of support personnel that take some time to train or find – surgical scrub techs, circulating nurses, PACU nurses, CRNAs and anesthesiologists. Is there a plan (and more importantly, a budget) to hire and train these people so that the large new facility can do more than our current one?
A: Our new children’s Surgery Center is designed to accommodate additional volume, and to do so more efficiently. To provide surgery to more patients, we are planning to run more ORs, so that will require additional staff and there are plans in place to recruit those individuals. Our surgery leadership, anesthesiologists and surgeons helped design the new facility to improve efficiency of the staff. For example, having all of pre- and post-anesthesia space on one floor – along with the ORs, procedure rooms and cath lab and one floor up from the pediatric imaging center – will improve our faculty and staff efficiency and contribute to improved clinical quality.
Q: I have noticed that in the cafeteria, some employees are wearing the blue bonnets from surgical areas, shoe covers, what looks like lead vests for X-rays, masks pulled down under the chin and so on. Shouldn't those items be taken off when leaving the operating rooms or treatment areas?
A: According to our clinical quality leaders, employees should not come to the cafeteria (or similar locations) wearing the items you have mentioned; they are in violation of UMMC policy. Hats, masks and shoe covers must be removed when leaving operating room and procedural locations. When UMMC hospital scrubs must be worn outside areas where they are required, a lab coat or gown should be worn as a cover. In returning to the area, employees should use new, clean caps, masks and shoe covers as required by regulation. Personnel not expecting to return immediately should change out of their scrubs into usual hospital attire. It is also in violation of UMMC policy to leave campus wearing UMMC hospital scrubs, as we’ve publicized recently.
We appreciate your bringing this to everyone’s attention. Building a culture of quality takes time, in large part because the task of culture change belongs to all of us. The important thing to remember is that we are making these changes for our patients, because this is what’s best for them. The recent “C” we received from the Leapfrog Group – compared to the “F” UMMC received in 2015 – is an indication of what we already know: We are making progress. This is the direct result of all the work our teams are doing every day to keep our patients safe and provide them with excellent and compassionate care. I thank you on their behalf, and mine, for taking this journey with us toward a safer UMMC and A Healthier Mississippi.