Debi’s Desk: Accomplishments of 2014 and Challenges Ahead

debi-180-decorationsDear Colleagues,

With the end of the year upon us, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on our many successes of 2014, as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in 2015.

I want to start by thanking each of you for the contributions – big and small- that you make every day to the Medical Center and, most importantly, to our patients and families. You are a talented and dedicated team with an unparalleled commitment to the professional practice of nursing. I am proud and genuinely grateful to work with such a skilled and compassionate group of nurses.

Celebrating Accomplishments of 2014

This past year has been a busy one with many accomplishments to recognize.  Here are a few of the highlights that reflect the great work everyone did in 2014 and how we are united in moving forward into 2015 and beyond together.

  • University of Chicago Medicine received top marks in 2014 for safety and quality, and our nursing teams are a big reason why. The prestigious Leapfrog Group once again gave us its highest “A” rating. Nursing-led initiatives were behind many of metrics that led to the rating, including improvements in infection rates and pressure ulcers, to name a few. UCM also received the highest rating for the level of training our nurses have and for how well we all work together to prevent errors.
  • After more than a year of analysis, discussions and planning, we launched the new University of Chicago Medicine Nursing Professional Practice Model (PPM). Centered on the core principal of “Providing Patient and Family Centered Care,” the PPM is a bold visual representation of the shared vision and values that connect all our nurses across every department and in every stage of your careers. The shield depicting our professionalism and core commitments will be a guiding and unifying symbol of why we do what we do for years to come.
  • We rolled out the API Healthcare Patient Classification System in September. After months of planning and testing, the initial feedback has been favorable. The Acuity System enables us to staff appropriately for the needs of our patients. Input from all of you plays an important part in making this new tool even more effective. We are able to spend more time providing care where it’s needed most.
  • I was very happy to see the positive response from all of you to the return of monthly Daisy Award recognition program. There are so many unsung heroes among our staff. This is one way to highlight the impact we have on the lives of our patients and how we inspire each other to provide the best patient care we can.
  • I also want to thank so many of you who have gone through Ebola preparedness training and have volunteered to work with patients suspected of having the disease. We would not be recognized as a national leader in providing this level of care if it weren’t for your dedication to the patients and your profession.
  • I continue to be amazed at the number of awards and accolades so many of you receive from peer organizations and other healthcare groups outside of UCM. I’m also very proud of the number of invitations you receive from various academic conferences and professional gatherings to share your knowledge and educate your peers. It’s a real testament to the professionalism and dedication each of you bring to work every day.

Looking Ahead – Opportunities and Challenges

While we are always looking for new ways to serve patients, our core mission remains the same. We are committed to providing excellent care and service to our patients and the South Side community – a community that faces some of the most severe health disparities in Chicago and the US.

We are well positioned to do so given the expertise, talent, skills and commitment of all of you and the entire medical team as well as the strength of the organization. But, we do face some challenges.  One overarching challenge is how we navigate healthcare reform, which has created new financial realities for the Medical Center.

One of our specific challenges is our cost structure. Our operational costs, employee costs and supply costs are high and growing, despite some great work being done by our clinical and non-clinical professionals in the various Value Analysis Teams in assessing the products and processes we use to ensure our patients get the best care in the most efficient way. At the same time, our payor mix is shifting and managed care reimbursements are being squeezed.

In addition, we are facing a number of other financial pressures that are being driven by government insurance plans. Some factors deal with how patients are to be classified in the future, in terms of whether they are inpatients or outpatients under observation, for example. Other potential impacts stem from the level of readmissions we see for several common conditions. Plus, our Medicare reimbursement rates continue to be increasingly affected by the “value” of our care. The government defines this value as the quality and satisfaction with care using specific metrics.

As I have mentioned above, we are clearly on the right trajectory with a number of very important safety and quality measures. But we must remain vigilant and focused on the needs of the patient. They count on us to provide them the best care in what can be very difficult times for them and their families.

I know you all have the professionalism and dedication necessary to continue providing the best and most compassionate care possible to our patients and our community.

I’m excited about the year ahead and the potential it holds to build on our traditions of excellence in patient care and innovative problem solving to improving the health of our patients and the community.

Please email me at any time you have ideas, questions or concerns you would like to share. I always welcome hearing from you.

Last, congratulations to 9W for taking top honors in the unit holiday decorations contest. Everybody took on this challenge with a spirit of camaraderie, and competition, and I know your efforts brought joy to our patients and their families who were forced to be in the hospital during the holiday season. I thank you for that.

I wish you and your families a very Happy Holiday and a healthy New Year.




Debi Albert



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