Amy and Jon chat with Willie Nash, Director of EVS at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado, and Kimberley Weber, Clinical Manager of Surgical Trauma at UCHealth, about the importance of healthy interdepartmental relationships and how open communication can facilitate them.
Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of Let's Talk Solutions, Candid Conversations with Healthcare Leaders. I'm Amy Fritzer.
And I'm Jon Amos. And this week on the podcast, we're discussing the importance of the relationship between EVS and nursing, how to build a healthy, collaborative working relationship between those two departments, and just how important it is to to have communication, to build healthy relationships and how that can make all the difference when it comes to doing the important work of really saving lives.
Well, today we're joined by two very special guests and we're so excited for them to be here. Willie Nash, who's director of EVS at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado. And then Kimberly Weber, who is clinical manager of the Surgical Trauma Unit there at UCHealth, and she oversees a pretty large team of over 54 nurses and CNAs. So welcome again, Willie and Kimberly, and thank you guys for joining us. And let's go ahead and get started.
Kimberly and Willie, thanks so much for joining us today. We're super excited to have you here and have a candid conversation with you. Wanted to start with just hearing about each of your backgrounds and kind of how you got into healthcare.
And Kimberly, I'd love to start with you just on your nursing experience and how you got to where you are today.
You want to start with me? Yeah, Willie's more interesting.
I doubt it.
Yeah, I have actually worked for Memorial Hospital since 2005, and prior to us being affiliated with UCHealth, we were the local community hospital. So I actually started here as a CNA. My previous life experience, I guess, as job wise, I was a social worker and worked with people with special needs.
So I did that for quite a while, and then decided to go back to nursing school since it was my real passion. I started working as a nurse, as a brand new grad nurse here, both at Memorial and then here on my surgical trauma floor.
So I've actually been on this unit for a long time. I came here to Memorial and it was very intentional. I had the opportunity to accept a scholarship for either hospital, and I chose intentionally to work for Memorial, primarily because we do serve a broader population.
And I have been the clinical manager here on surgical trauma since 2015. So I am actually the longest running clinical manager that this unit has ever had in recent history. So I don't know what that makes me more of a glutton for punishment or if it says something about my character. But I guess it depends on the day.
Yeah, no, that's great.
Well, Willie, your background and perspective is pretty interesting. I mean, before you became an EVS director, you were a long time tour manager for a popular hip hop artist. And you know, you hit the road a lot during the year, you were traveling and living that exciting life and, you know, managing day to day operations and a tour and all that fun stuff. And so what made you move into health care?
Well, like you said, my family always says that I took the long route to health care, right? I come from three generations of nurses. I've been in healthcare with those guys my whole life. Like, you know, I remember on days, the hospital was my day care some evenings, but I never wanted to be here.
So I went to school, went to undergrad, majored in international business, and I came out and I started working for Universal Motown and loved it. I thought that, you know, I was going to be on the road forever. I started in 2001. I was 21-years old, bushy-tailed, making six figures and thought it was a life right?
In 2009 something Napster came and all these burning of CDs and all this stuff. And so I went from top 3% in the company working for David Banner, his tour manager, to just being upside down and almost having to take a half pay cut in order to stay there. So I thought about grad school. My mother is deceased and she was a 20-year nurse, and I promised her that I was going to get a master's degree.
So after nine years being in entertainment, I was accepted to Oral Roberts, graduated top three in my class, and still didn't know what I wanted to do. Right. So I went back to Jackson, Mississippi, because you never know what you don't know. I never thought about the health disparities in Jackson. So I went back and worked for a nonprofit, Mississippi Road Mountain Health Equity. Did great work there. Executive Director Benita Berg was just amazing. We were working with reversing childhood obesity.
I was nominated for the Jefferson Award by the White House. Great times, loved it, that I have found my new career and in the Carlile Foundation say that, hey, we're not going to find you guys any longer. And so my grandmother at that time was just like, See, we told you health care is the way you're right.
And so she was like the hospital she worked in for 30 years. She was like, Can I call and get you anything? And of course, I said yes at that time, you know, at the coming out of entertainment and being devastated because you don't have the job anymore and in the nonprofit sector wasn't the way for me
I went in and I started in patient access and became the manager there; came into a fellowship position there. And my father came home one day and I will never forget, he gave me the worst news of my life and told me he had lung cancer and he had two years to live.
And so he was a veteran who was going to celebrate those two years. But he went to a facility and he acquired CDiff. And at that time, I didn't know what an HAI was, I didn’t know what CDiff was. I didn't know anything about that part of it. You don't know what you don't know. And instead of us having him for two years, I lost him on October 21st of 2009, a year and a half early.
It was at that time I think I went into a maybe, two to three month depression. You know, I just really couldn't think, because at that point I was in a fellow position and I was thinking about administration work, but there was a gap that was being missed in the cleaning process.
It was a gap that was being missed among hospitals, and I just wanted to find a gap. And so one of my friends worked for HHS. They gave me Tommy Gray's phone number. I gave him a call. He asked me to meet him at Applebee's. He offered me $50,000 less than what I was making. And seven years later, here I am.
What a neat story.
Wow. Yeah. Thanks for sharing that, Willie.
Your passion is so obvious. And you know, there was a recent story on you, on our company website, and I just love this quote. I would love to read it if that's OK with you.
You said, “For me, health care in the music industry are relatively the same. Music is supposed to be soulful and an outlet for people to feel better. We try to do the same thing with housekeeping in our facility. We want patients to feel better and feel cared for.” And it sounds like that was kind of, you know, after your father's passing and all that, that it was kind of like a calling for you almost.
Not only is it our calling, it's a passion. I believe everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe this is my calling. And that statement is exactly how I feel. Music was my first calling.
I mean, I loved it. I still love it. I'm still in contact with a lot of the guys in the industry. And I noticed how when we were on the road, we would have college kids and different people come up and tell different artists, how “hey, this song changed my life. Hey, you got me through college.” So when I came to health care, it was kind of the same thing. I wanted to make sure that we never put any one family member in a bed that I wouldn't put myself or my family in.
You know, I know what's the dire impact of us having high SIR rates. You know, not having the proper HAIs. You know, I understand how dynamic that can be to a family to lose a family member to something of that dynamic, right?
And so every day when I come into work, my overall goal is to think, “how can I leave the facility better than it was when I got here? You know, who can I impact today?”
You know, I have this motto that I tell all of my assistant directors, and I ask them to let me know at the end of the day, are we takers or are we givers today? You know, not that either one is wrong, I just want to know, what did we take or what did we give back?
You know, like if we are rounding on a patient and it is their birthday and they don't have family members - are we taking flowers? Are we delivering balloons? Are we asking Miss Kimberly, can we bring them their favorite meal?
Are we taking something from them? Are we listening to their stories and incorporating them into our life? You know, I saw like, we have this motto where my seasoned directors will walk by and say, “Hey, Willie, I was a taker today.”
And so the question just be like, what is your take? And he might be 65/25. I took that I need to be a better father, right, I need to listen to my kids a little more. One of my directors might say, “Willie, I was a giver today.” “What did you give?” “I gave 25 minutes of my time when you told me I should only give 10, you know, I actually sat down and listened to a patient’s concern.”
You know, so every day is vital. It's just like music. At the end of the day, we can make people better people for just interacting, just being caring, just having two things: empathy and sympathy.
Why interdepartmental relationships are important...
That's awesome. And I think that, you know, to do that well in a hospital, you obviously have to do that in partnership with nursing, right? Which is kind of the topic and the theme of this conversation is how do you collaborate with nursing, you know, to have that kind of care for patients and to make a hospital run, not just clinically, but just, you know, supporting patients through and through.
So I kind of want to just start off the conversation in that regard. Just asking, you know, why is that relationship between nursing and CVS so important?
Well, I mean, I think for me, that relationship is absolutely fundamental in a couple of different spectrums. I mean, when Willie's talking a little bit about, you know, the hospital acquired infections and what exactly that means for some of our patients, it's definitely a challenge because when patients are here in the hospital, they're not they're not expecting to get sicker from something that that was basically unplanned. And it's heart wrenching to hear Willie's story about his dad and why that was the ultimate form of his demise was a hospital acquired infection. And that's certainly something that as a nurse, never, ever do we want to have happen.
I know for myself, I'm a huge people person. I am not super data driven and I'm very different from a lot of my colleagues in that. I pay attention to the data, of course, because I have to.
But at the same time, I'm very much a people person and that definitely inspired my relationship with Willie. Until we started doing this process of preparing for this podcast, I had absolutely no idea what his background was.
I just knew that he was a very easy going guy, super nice, super easy to get to know, super snappy dresser (laughter). Until covid hit, we all looked a lot prettier than we do now, but it certainly drew me to him in that I knew that he was a people person as well.
And so, you know, we just started off kind of giving each other a hard time. But I also previously to having HHS come in, had gone to battle for our housekeeper on our unit. Her name is Lorna, and she's probably the biggest integral part of one of our unit right now as far as housekeeping is concerned because she is part of our family.
We had the previous company prior to HHS was actually looking to move her over to another facility or another part of our facility, and initially I protested and then they relented and we got to keep her. And then another year later, they came back and said, Oh, we need to take her again. And I'm just like, yeah, so I already told you now. And they gave me some big, long sob story about this other unit that really needed help.
And so, you know me being the beating heart, I'm like, Oh, all right, we can sacrifice to help someone else. Well, when the word came out that she was going to be transferred over to another unit, my staff actually wrote a letter protesting her being moved.
And I think for Lorna, that seemed to make a huge impression on her because she knew that while she's part of housekeeping and she's a contracted person and she's not a nurse and you know, but she is so good at what she does, and I think for her, it helped her to understand and know how very important she was to us.
We definitely treat her as a member of our family. When she travels home to Jamaica, she brings stuff back for all of my staff members. It's just like, you know, when Mama goes on a trip, mama brings home something. And Lorna, we threw a big 60th birthday party for her because she's part of our family and we adore her. And we give her a lot of grief because she takes days off, which is not really OK (laughter). Actually, I said to her last night when she said she came in to say goodbye and I said, I'll see you tomorrow.
And she said, No, I have the day off tomorrow, and I said I did not approve that. She said, Well, I'll be back on Friday. And I said, Huh. II already know that she's off. I've had two of my staff members come in and say, Is Lorna here today?
So we are all very aware when she's here. And I think that piece of it is because I know she does right by our patients. There have been multiple times where she's come in to me and said, I need you to talk to your staff about such and such.
And immediately I'm on it and my staff are like, Oh, OK, well, we'll do anything for Lorna and to us that person connection is huge, and I know that our patients notice that as well. Not that answers your question a little bit. Yeah, she's just she's definitely the best thing ever.
And Willie, Willie and I have a good relationship, mostly because we both speak fluent sarcasm so I can totally get in as much as he dishes out.
So, so on that note, obviously, we each understand how, you know, the nursing department and nurses are tremendously important. And then obviously the housekeeping staff is so important. But why is it so important for them to work in tandem? I mean, obviously to help the patient heal. But what other things do they do behind the scenes that helps the facility run and, you know, bring added value to the patient?
Well, first of all, Willie will do just about anything if I ask him to. He told me that he was going on vacation. I think this summer he was gone when he went to the northwest for a couple of weeks and I said, Well, what am I, who am I supposed to call? And you know, it is just so integral for us to be able to know who we can count on. And you know, a couple of months ago we did this bed exchange program and Willie was up here with his staff members. And you know, nursing kept trying to kind of clean the dirty beds and swap over the new mattresses. And we were doing it wrong and oh my gosh, we kept doing it wrong and he was like, “You need to stay in your lane. Get over there and stay in your lane. Do what you're supposed to do. But you can put the mattress on the bed, but please don't do any more other things.”
I mean, he's right. We were totally doing it wrong. So I think for us, that's, you know, the behind the scenes stuff is by far the most important. I can call him any time of the day, and he will either be up here himself or he'll send somebody up here to help us clean things up and make things right for our unit to function better.
What about from your perspective, Willie?
I think Kimberly is 100% correct, right? From an administrative standpoint, from a CEO standpoint, our CEO standpoint. It’s the KPIs, it’s the turnaround time. If we don't work together, we can't get patients in and out of the hospital.
We all know that we're in a pandemic and our census here in Colorado Springs is overwhelming. And so if we don't have that one on one relationship, hypothetically, you may be in a hospital where nursing might be responsible for contractually stripping rooms, right?
If we don't have their relationship to where we are fully staffed, to where we can help those guys, it can back up their next patient that needs to come in. Right. So that's very important to us. Just wait time. I think, you know, when we came in this morning, maybe we had 20 people waiting in our E.D. That lets me know as soon as I get that call that I need to be on the floor just like Kimberly said, rounding, seeing where my people are, anticipating discharges and building those relationships so that nurses like Kimberly feel comfortable with calling me, feel comfortable with leading their charge.
We are so connected hip-to-hip. Honestly, I can't do my job without having a Kimberly on board, and she can't do her job without me. And I feel comfortable saying that because of our relationship.
You know, I think the dynamic of having two departments that lean on each other for so many reasons, whether it's linen, whether it's room turnover, whether it's no more than, “Willie, I need an extra linen picked up that we're not scheduled to do, or “Hey, Willy, I'm short today, can you guys strip the rooms? Just having an open line of communication makes everything flow so much better.
Just tell her no. (laughter)
You try. Good luck with that! (laughter) She doesn't even know what that word means.
Or even dare try, the poor guy.
Yeah, yeah, Willie, weren't you telling us when we were initially talking about this conversation together and you mentioned how you call Kimberly “Mama Bear.”
She's programmed my phone as that. My kids and my family know about her. It's just that dynamic, you know, like, it's rare that you are able to feed off of people and you're there for the right reason, right?.
My passion brought me to health care. You know, just to be honest, this is not where I wanted to be. You know, life led me here. So to find people that are just as engaged as I am and that we are here for the same reason, it makes it easy for me to do what I do.
And on top of that, she keeps me in line. You know, I easily can run astray, right? I easily can do my own thing. She makes sure that I don’t, so I appreciate that.
Well, I mean, the first time he appeared in front of my door, I'd had, you know, I had just been fighting with the previous company and he appeared in my doorway and I'm like, “No,” (laughter) He didn't even ask me anything.
And somebody introduced him, “This is Willie. And he's the new, you know, clinical manager of of EVS, or whatever your fancy title is. And I don’t care, you're just Willie. I can't remember what you are in my phone, I think you're “Willie Snappy Dresser,” I think is what it says. (laughter) But anyway, yeah, he appears in my doorway, “Hi, this is Willie La La La La…” and I just looked at him and I said, “No, you don't get to take Lorna, I don't care what you say and it's not happening. And I double dog dare you to fight me.” (laughter)
Yeah, we get along really well, which makes a huge difference, I think.
Wait, so what’s Willie's side of that story?
Well, for me, you know, like, I'm always the guy she dishes it out to, right? So initially when she says, No, you can't have her (Lorna), my next comment is, I'm definitely having to move her (Lorna). You know, this is what we're doing, we have to move her or we need her.
But to be honest, guys, I would have never moved her (Lorna). I am a big believer that perception drives performance, meaning that the way you think about something affects the way you do something, right?
So in health care. If a housekeeper believes they are part of the clinical family, if they believe that they have buy in, if they believe that they are one of the nurses, if they believe that they are part of that floor, they're going to interact differently.
If you go into a facility and you make those guys feel like they're just a janitor or a housekeeper and they are just there to clean up, then they are going to look at it differently. Kimberly and a lot of the nurses at UCHealth, do a great job making our housekeepers feel like they're part of the UCHealth family.
So I would dare never move a housekeeper from one of their floors because that's the dynamic that we want. We want Ms. Lorna to be able to come in and be able to tell Kimberly, “Hey, I forgot to do this today, can we talk to them?” And she has to feel comfortable in doing that; as well as she has to feel comfortable enough that Kimberly has her best interests at hand so she can take constructive criticism the right way.
So whereas I gave her a hard time and told on numerous occasions I was going to take her, I would never do that and she knows.
Well, and my response to him was fine. You can go ahead and take Lorna, but I get Margaret.
See, see, and Ms. Margaret is another great one that I would get kicked out of the hospital if I moved her so…
Oh man, that's awesome. That's awesome. So shifting gears a little bit, I kind of want to hear from both you guys on just the dynamics, obviously, between EVS and nursing, but how much administrators are aware of that. How much, you know, do they get involved in managing that? Or do they not get involved? Do they have a good pulse on how the relationship is going? Do you look to them for guidance or how is that dynamic between the administrator level and then you guys and what you're doing day-to-day?
Well, for me, it is pretty easy. You know, here at UC Health, we have a great administrative team and they really get it. I have been in hospitals that didn't really get the dynamic of why we need to play good in a sandbox together, right?
And my first question is, once I go into an account, is I love to meet with their leader because it's a top down approach. It's not a bottom up approach, right? They have to lead the way, they have to lead to surge.
So with me knowing my value, within my first ten days within a facility, I want to meet with whoever the CEO is, whoever my direct report is. And I want to hear some of the complaints that they might have in between nursing and they might have in between EVS right. And a majority, 99% of the time, it is culture. It is that the EVS team doesn't feel like they are part of whatever organization they're in.
So I always ask them a challenging question, and it makes them have to go back and think sometimes. I’ll say, “Can we promise each other something?” And naturally they say “yes” or “Willie, what is it?” depending on what the premise is. I say, “Can we never complain about something that we're not willing to change.?” And so, it’s usually like, “OK, well what are we complaining about?” “Well, we’re complaining about the culture. Because we're complaining about EVS not showing up and doing the things that nursing needs them to do, and nursing is
Saying that EVS is not doing what they’re supposed to be. There may be some possibilities for the communication barrier. Maybe Housekeeper A doesn't know what Nurse A needs. Because one thing I do believe, I believe everyone is in health care for a reason. I think we all understand the dynamic, that we all understand that patients need to be taken care of and we all understand why we do what we do. A lot of times it’s that culture shift that housekeepers just want to feel like they belong.
And so a lot of the time once I tell those CEOs that are my direct report that, most of the time they try to make their culture shift and 99% of the time once we make this shift it naturally works.
Advice on building relationships...
So that's your number one piece of advice for them, Willie, is basically take a closer look at their culture, maybe look how they integrate their relationship more?
Absolutely. I can guarantee you if you're running a facility and you're having problems in between your housekeeping department, not just one housekeeper, the department and your nursing department, it is a culture shift.
You know, and I think, you know, to try to tag that on, I'm, you know, I'm not really familiar with a lot of the upper echelon of housekeeping, which is really OK because that's not my that's not my specialty. You know, I know the nursing and the clinical side of what it's like to run a hospital. And one of the things—that I mean, I've worked here for 15 years—so one of the things that I've experienced a great deal of is different leadership, and how each facility is run in probably a very different way. And I had, unfortunately, a bad experience previously when I first stepped in the leadership of having very much being part of a dictatorship and very much being part of a facility that was run from the top down and you basically stood in line, and you know, and handle things the way that you were told you needed to handle them. The way the shift in the culture has changed in the last couple of years has been absolutely incredible. And I think Willie is part of that, but also feeling the benefits of that change for us personally in this hospital in that we finally have some really stable leadership.
We are not owned by the county anymore or by the city anymore, which is a big, a big boon for us, but also our CNO, our chief nursing officer, is a homegrown Memorial nurse. So she has worked here in the trenches here at Memorial for a very long time. Our COO is super, super approachable and several years ago, they came up with the idea that each senior leader needs to adopt a unit, basically. And Merle, who is actually the COO, is, I believe Willie's direct report, is the actual senior leader that is my unit's sponsor, I guess is the best way of looking at it.
And Merle, I have his cell phone number. I forget sometimes, and I'm not reminded of it regularly that he's the COO, he's just Merle. And so if I need something, I will text Merle and I'll just, you know, and I'm middle management. I'm not super fancy. I don't have a master's degree. I am a bachelor's trained nurse and I have no desire to be a director. I don't want to be a CNO when I grow up. I love working with my team and I absolutely love the job that I have. Some days it’s not all that great, but I do love the job that I have.
To have the opportunity to be able to just shoot a text to my COO and say, ‘Hey, we're really struggling with X, Y and Z,’ and to have him respond to me and say, ‘OK, let me see what I can do to fix that.’ That culture cannot be bought. And so I think that Willie benefits from that as well, because it's definitely our culture here at Memorial. That is how we approach things. And it's pervasive throughout all of our administrative areas, which is a big chunk of progress, I feel like.
On communication practices...
So it seems like, and both of you have mentioned communication being a big part of that, and I'm curious what you guys have in place formally and informally? I know you're talking about texting and stuff, but what you guys have in place to kind of enhance that communication and is that something that has evolved over time? I'm just kind of curious what you guys do to establish that flow of communication between yourselves.
Well, I mean, I think for Willie and I, of course, are very casual. Rarely do I ever send him an email, I’ll call him or text him and just say, ‘Yo, come here, please. I need you for something.’ But you know, and then he'll show up when he darn well feels like it, you know. Just kidding.
Just a couple weeks ago, he was in his scrubs and I hardly even recognized him, but I have gotten used to it now. But I'm like, ‘What you doing? You're down here with the scrub people and you’re wearing pajamas to work just like all the rest of us.’
Our facility actually developed an operations meeting that we have on a daily basis, which I think in the beginning was quite a nightmare for our IT department and probably Willie because it kind of was the airing of grievances, you know. We spent an awful lot of time in a 15 minute meeting kvetching about how this thing didn't go right and this thing didn't go right, and sometimes Willie would get the brunt of that. But I believe that it was actually developed by our COO.
And so every morning at 8:45, we have an operations meeting with the leaders of the hospital and we go on and talk about some of the issues that have come up in the last days, which can cover all kinds of different things. And I think that process has really helped kind of hone in on where our actual issues are. And like, if it took two hours for me to get a bed up here from housekeeping, then Willie and I are able to communicate. We talk about it on this meeting because nine times out of ten, if I'm struggling, if my unit is struggling, then it's probably happening other places as well. And we kind of hone in on those processes and really look to see what we can do to process improve and fix the process so that we're not just fixing one isolated problem all the time, which is really good.
We have an issue—Willie, you may not even remember this—a couple of, it probably has been about a year or so, well before COVID. So it feels like it's about five years ago. But that being said, we had a patient that fell and she was actually accidentally placed on a trial bed that none of our staff were even familiar with or knew how to utilize or anything.
She unfortunately sustained an injury on her fall and we, Willie and I had to do quite a bit of digging so that we could actually figure out where this bed even came from because it was something that we had never, ever seen before. Housekeeping had never seen it. I had never seen it. My staff had never seen one of these beds, and it was brought up here in the middle of the night. So I think those communication things are just super important because we don't want, you know, if it's one, if it's an isolated issue, great, but most of the time it isn't. It's a pervasive process problem and that's what this morning meeting really is, just to kind of narrow down exactly where we're falling apart in the processes and what can we do to make things smoother. Plus, it does help develop those relationships. We can match names with faces, and I know exactly who to come to if I'm struggling with particular issues.
Wow, that’s great.
On enforcing change...
Yeah, it sounds like, I mean, you guys have an amazing relationship and totally illustrate the value of that. And Willie, you had mentioned, you know, kind of backing up a little bit here that you had, you know, worked at other facilities where the relationship wasn't as great or the culture wasn't there.
So how would you begin? And I understand, you know, nine and ten times you say, ‘OK, well, the culture needs to change’ or, you know, ‘we do look at this differently,’ but how would you go about doing that as a director and EVS director?
I mean, obviously, there's so many departments that you, you know, you infiltrate with, so to speak. So how would you go about that?
So the first thing that I have learned to do is build relationships, right? Everything I do is based off relationships. It has to be a trust factor there in some way. So initially, when I come into the facility, I like to break that facility down into many hospitals, meaning I want to give every last one of my ADs, as well as myself, a certain part of the hospital. And then I like to create what we call a collaborative round matrix, and within that matrix we're going to round. I'm going to take all the directors—I want all the Kimberlys. I want all the dynamics, I want all the character. I want all of the people who want to say, ‘I'm not working with them.’ You know, I want all the tough customers, right? Outside of having all of those guys, I want to round on those guys once a week just to show them around, and what do we do at HHS. We're a new company. We're nothing like whoever else may have been here, or whatever they went through before. Whether that was with the previous director or the previous company. And we want to build those relationships in those trust factors day in and day out.
So every week, Kimberly is going to see Willie. Every week I'm going to get on her nerves. Every week I'm going to ask or text, ‘how are we doing?’ We create surveys that we send out to those guys just to ask, ‘how are we doing this week? Can we do anything different? What do we need to learn?’ And in between there you'll find that there may be some communication issues, there may be some barrier issues, maybe they really don't understand what we do, and we build on it as well as rounding on patients.
We want to go in and we want to talk up the nursing staff. We want to let them know how great of a nurse they have. But in order to do that, we have to learn who Kimberly really is. You know, we have to understand where she comes from. We have to understand her background. So for me coming in, even if it's a culture issue, is just inserting myself inside of their culture to let them know whether they want me or not they are stuck with me, right? And we're going to make this a better environment for not only for us to work, but also for the patients that we come here to serve.
Are you saying I'm part of your matrix?
I didn’t know I was part of a matrix.
Yeah, you’re definitely part of my matrix.
Dude, I knew I was fancy, but I didn’t know I was Keanu Reeves fancy.
You are there! And so now, what you see now is a dynamic between me and Kimberly two years down the line. She don't even need to be part of the matrix. I can just spoof off to her office, like I don't even have to have an appointment, I can just just roll in.
If he had an appointment, I would think I was in trouble.
Yeah, yeah. And so that's what you want. You know, I can even call her, you know, Kimberly, she hates being called that and she doesn't get mad.
No, I hate being called Kim. You got even got it wrong.
Yeah. Well, you know what I'm talking about.
We have that dynamic, and I pride myself on my team as well as myself having that dynamic in every hospital we go into. Sometimes you have to work a little harder, you know, sometimes you got to start at the bottom. Sometimes their cultures are already there, like UCHealth already had their culture when we came in. We just had to insert ourself. But if we had to start from the beginning, it will start getting to know those around and getting to know those nurses and getting the nurses to know us. Let them know our platform. And, hey, we all here for the same reason.
Being visible, almost too visible.
Being annoying is what he meant.
Like, I don't want to see you anymore. Like, leave me alone.
Yeah, go away. Because every time you come up here, I think you're going to take my Lorna.
So you have this relationship that you guys have built up and that's obviously incredible. And then you put it in the context of obviously the last 18 months with COVID. And I'm curious, how that has changed or improved the dynamic in the relationship between nursing and EVS, but specifically in ways that you're going about ensuring safety? I'm just curious, how the context of being in the pandemic has impacted the relationship you guys have?
Well, you know, for us, you know, I am because I'm a surgical unit we have been blessed a little bit in that we haven't had the inundation of COVID patients that a lot of the other units have had, primarily because our patients are what we would consider clean patients because they're coming in, hopefully not sick.
However, the last six weeks, things have really shifted and a lot of things have changed here in our facility and in our community where we're really seeing some incredible spikes of COVID.
I think because like I told you before, I'm definitely a people person. One of the things that has it's helped that we have this dynamic already established because to put a health system or to put a hospital or to put nursing staff or clinical staff or housekeeping staff under the incredible amount of pressure that we're all experiencing right now, sometimes doesn't bring out the best in people and it doesn't bring our patients are very, very ill. You know, right?
And at the moment, we're not doing a whole lot of elective surgeries. We're not doing a whole lot of optional things. And so our patients are coming in more critically ill than they ever have been. So I think putting that incredible just amount of pressure on a facility and everything, you have to have those relationships that are already very well established in order for us to be successful.
Because if I'm running at an elevated emotional level, like a lot of our facility is right now and so is housekeeping. A lot of times we're not on our best behavior. And so we are, I think because we've got that decent relationship where we feel like we are already family, I guess, is a way of looking at it. We can treat each other with a much more amount of grace, I think, and realize that everybody has their bad days.
And if I completely turn into my crazy redheaded self with Willie one day, he knows me well enough to know that that's not who I really am. Then I know him well enough that I can go back and say, ‘Hey, I totally overstepped. I didn't. I became a crazy woman, and I need you to forgive me and let's move on’, because if we didn't have that relationship before, it would be very challenging.
I think it just puts a huge amount of stress on the facility completely. And then you look at it from the infection piece of it. I mean, there's a lot of stuff. It has to go on in the background in order to keep our patients from cross contaminating or getting a hospital acquired infection from COVID as well.
You know, I agree 100% from our perspective. And when COVID first got here the truth is three things that we aren't, you know, we knew it was a storm and we understood that most storms were going to change you, right?
But we also knew that all storms had an expiration date. So we just needed to make it do their storm, right? So we just had to figure out how to navigate a little bit better. And I think, like Kimberly said, whenever you have those wonderful relationships, whenever you understand those dynamics it’s easier for you to attach yourself to it.
I’ll never forget the first day we received a call, you know, in January or February, we were hearing about COVID. You know, it was for me, it was kind of like Ebola, you know, so I never thought that it would happen to us. We received a call one Saturday. I was off and Miss Martha received on her floor and she called and she was like, ‘What are we going to do’? You know how like, I'm not fearful about this isolation room, but what are we going to do?
And initially, my first thought process because my wife was looking at me and the door was looking at me like, ‘Are you really going anywhere’? And I don't know. And I had to say, absolutely, because not only did I miss Margaret, call me, the nurse called me from the floor and they wanted to.
They just wanted insurance that we were there and prepared to do the right thing. So I showed up. Me and Miss Margaret, both PPE’d together and we followed their storm together. And when we both came out and we donned our PPE, it was nursing that was there.
They clapped for us, you know, and it's those relationships that's knowing that, ‘Hey, they really have our back. Hey, we're not just housekeepers, janitors to them, hey, we're family’. So it's easy to fight these COVID battles when you have a family around you where you guys all feel the same way about each other.
I absolutely agree, I don't necessarily. You know, it's sobering. This is a sobering experience. one of our directors said to us last week when we were all really struggling because we're struggling because it's the long haul.
You know, we don't see the end of the storm. We don't see, we don't even know where the eye of the storm is at this point. And so we're struggling because we're all exhausted. We are struggling because just like the rest of parts of the country, we're struggling with staffing.
We're struggling with just keeping our head above water and having the right people working and doing what they can. And those of us that are super, super dedicated to working and taking care of our patients. It's creating a weary group of souls.
However, I know that all of us and the thinning of the herd, I guess the best way to look at it when we've lost so many staff and not to say that they were all not worth keeping, but those of us that are still here are the strong the the ones that are here for the right reasons.
You know, I pride myself in knowing that I want to live my life and have my career be so that every single day I can look at myself in the mirror when I get home and know that I did my best with whatever it is that I have to do.
We have learned very, very much to be flexible. Nursing is not typically a very flexible arena. We are very black and white. We are. You have this disease, you treat it this way. You have this job that you have to do.
You do this. This, this, this were all very task oriented, and we have learned to really bend and flex and do some things that we have never, ever been comfortable with before. Like I was mentioning, one of our directors said the other day, this is the most difficult time that as leaders, you will ever lead your team through. And I take that very, very seriously.
My staff and my people here at the hospital are my people, and I am proud to work for an organization that has done nothing but support us during this process and when we are basically on our knees trying to take care of people and to save them.
And I'm very, very thankful to have all the people that are around us, from our dietary staff to our housekeeping staff to our senior leadership. Every one of them have been doing their very, very best and doing their hardest work.
And it's an honor for me to know that I am shoulder to shoulder with amazing people fighting a war that at this moment doesn't seem to ever have an end.
That's a very sobering explanation there, Kimberly was great.
That's awesome. Well, I think in wrapping up if we just had to take away some of the highlights from the conversation, what would kind of the big takeaways be for you guys in terms of, you know, what are the most important aspects of the relationship between nursing and EVS?
What are the takeaways from this conversation that you want to leave the listeners with?
I think just keeping those lines of communication open, you know, always using humor. We in healthcare have a pretty sick sense of humor, so I'm sure housekeeping does as well. And, you know, just keeping and treating each other with grace and kindness and just keeping that level of communication open and realizing how important all of us are in the wheel. You know that adage of how it takes a village to raise your children. It definitely takes a village to take care of a patient and to keep them safe.
And we just power through. And I think also just developing those good relationships and keeping that and keeping that alive, regardless of whether it's, you know, Kimberly and Willy or anybody else, you know, just keeping that relationship open and just talking.
What about you, Willie?
You know, I feel the same, you know, I would tell everyone, you know, this is health care, right? No matter what side of the village you are on, we save lives. You know, it's not about us or it's about the people we serve, and we have to know the way that we serve.
People will lead them to be better every day. You know, so when we go in and we need to understand, hey, we're doing something that's going to drastically impact somebody's life in one way or another. I think as long as we know that and we do what the golden rule is, well my mom used to tell me every day, ‘Just treat somebody the way you want to be treated’. I think everything else will fix itself.
I can't thank you guys enough for sharing. You know, all the stories you guys have shared and sharing just y'all's relationship with it with us.
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