You are on page 1of 1


Clinic Sofia: culture in action The large-scale hospital setting has been an excellent proving ground for Fairview Southdale’s emphasis on a positive culture, but it’s a focus that can translate to the clinical setting, as well. Clinic Sofia OB-GYN, PA, based in Edina, Minn., is an excellent example of a new model for practice. It was founded 14 years ago by Donna Block, M.D., who decided to fill what she saw as an existing need for a new type of clinic. “Patients wanted an environment in which they did not feel rushed, where the staff and physicians seemed committed to them and where they could feel the healthiness of the organization,” she says. In response, Dr. Block went back to school, earning an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and then opening the clinic, which is named for the goddess of women’s wisdom. Debbie Schumacher, R.N., was there at the beginning, and the nurse manager has been instrumental in maintaining Clinic Sofia’s healthy culture. “It’s evident from the moment someone walks through our door,” Schumacher says.

are there, communicates at all levels, uses healthy behavior with each other and has a consistency of infrastructure,” Block says. Huddle up The Clinic Sofia team meets every Monday morning for what they call “the huddle,” with a goal of bringing all aspects of the clinic together — front line, lab, providers, ultrasound, medical assistants and managers. “We make announcements for the week, take the time to problem-solve processes and remind everyone of the standards for our team,” says Block. She views the weekly sessions as a chance to “emphasize that the most important person in the clinic is the patient who walks through our front door.” Service recovery Even with an organizational focus on quality, it’s important to remember that services are delivered by human beings, and humans sometimes make mistakes. Even with the best of intentions, quality can slip or an error can occur. Block acknowledges, “We occasionally trip. While we strive to do the best we can, when that doesn’t happen, we regroup, go over the scenario, perform patient-employee recovery, get help and strive to go back to our mission for those inside and outside the organization.” Pechacek elaborates on the impact of relationships and patient attitudes when it comes to service recovery. “If the patient is experiencing you as not listening or not caring, they won’t cut you any slack if

a mistake is made. Patients tend to be more litigious when they feel they aren’t listened to, but, on the flip side, they will feel loyalty to a caregiver who genuinely cares,” she says.

How they do it
The high-performing cultures at Fairview Southdale Hospital and Clinic Sofia are the product of a genuine commitment to new ways of working. Some of their practices include: Look inward: It all begins by “taking a realistic look at your own behavior,” says Fairview Southdale Hospital’s Pechacek. Keep at it: You’re never “finished” with culture — in the true spirit of continuous improvement, there’s always room for improvement. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Clinic Sofia’s regular Monday-morning huddles keep communication open among all areas of the clinic. Hire for the culture you want: The right team members can make all the difference. Debbie Schumacher, Clinic Sofia’s nurse manager, often brings candidates back two or three times, and makes sure that other staff members have a chance to meet them before hiring decisions are made.

by Julie Kendrick There was a time when the word “culture,” used in a medical setting, could only refer to something growing in a Petri dish. But for many forward-thinking organizations, culture refers to the way teams and individuals work and relate to one another. A strong and positive culture can, in fact, be a key factor in reducing risk and increasing patient safety. “How we treat each other directly impacts how patients experience care,” says Judy Pechacek, R.N., DNP, CENP, vice president of care and chief of nursing at Fairview Southdale Hospital, a 390-bed licensed hospital based in Edina, Minn. “If we have high-functioning teams, they will produce outstanding care,” she adds. And for those who wonder what all the talk of “culture” really means, Pechacek has an easy answer: “It’s how things really get done in a workplace. It’s the ground we walk on.” To reach its goals for creating a strong culture, Pechacek’s organization has been using a model called the
18 / Brink / Spring 2013

Healthy Environment Initiative (HEI). More than 80 percent of the organization’s departments have completed the process. It’s not “charm school” For all the positive impact that an improved culture can have on patient outcomes, there is one thing Pechacek is adamant about: “This is not charm school. It’s about fixing issues that are underlying in the culture that trigger negative behaviors. Most people are good people who want to do well, but when the process fails — a staff member isn’t prepared, or there’s miscommunication, for example — then that’s when the bad stuff happens, and someone gossips about a co-worker, throws a scalpel, or is passive-aggressive and won’t return phone calls,” she says. Pechacek is quick to point out that embracing this new kind of culture doesn’t instantly transform every staff member into a saint. “In our units, when harmful stuff

happens, people will say, ‘We don’t do that here.’ It helps when everyone uses a common language to address issues.” MMIC’s perspective According to Laurie C. Drill-Mellum, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer at MMIC, “Imperfect communication is a contributing factor or cause of loss in 80 percent of malpractice claims. As a provider of professional liability insurance, we know that it’s imperative to address this issue not only for our policyholders, but also for all of us who receive health care. We are committed to shining a light on this topic and providing resources such as TeamStepps. “The good news is that with focused intention and commitment, there can be real improvement in measureable ways. Employee and patient experience metrics can improve, as can patient care and safety,” Dr. Drill-Mellum says.

“The physical space is calming, and the staff exhibits a genuine feeling of concern for each individual.” The leadership connection On the operational side of things, Schumacher is quick to point to the importance of a caring leader, and she credits Block for setting an example that the staff strives to follow. “She was the first physician I’d ever worked with who went so far above and beyond for her patients. She really listened to them, and that makes such a difference in the quality of care,” she says. Block is clear on the importance of a healthy work environment. “A team functions more effectively and accurately in an environment that has expectations, empowers everyone to be the best that they can be, understands the mission and why we

Julie is a freelance writer in Minneapolis, Minn.

Brink / Spring 2013 / 19