With Father’s Day next week, I’ve been reflecting a bit on my own Dad’s healthcare journey and how some of his experiences have shaped my commitment to strategic healthcare talent management. I’d like to share one particular story that encapsulates the role talent plays in delivering high-quality care.
Around 10 years ago, in late Winter 2009, my Dad was living in a small, third floor apartment. As happens at that time of year in New Hampshire, we had a wet, heavy snowfall. My Dad, a man of a certain age and of certain moral convictions, decided it was his job to clear off his neighbor’s cars, the sidewalk, and the end of the driveway where the plow had left a decent pile of snow. Somewhere along the way, he had a mild heart attack and was driven to the hospital by a concerned neighbor.
I was at work when it happened and arrived at the hospital a few hours after he was admitted. When I got to his room, my Dad said that the nurses hadn’t been around much and a lot of other folks had also been admitted that day, presumably facing the same issues as my Dad. He was grumpy and annoyed, mostly because he needed to use the restroom, but the nurses told him to stay put. You can probably guess what happened next.
After voicing his frustrations to me, he decided enough was enough. He got up and started to make his way to the restroom, ignoring my protests and demands that he stay in bed. Three steps into his journey, he had a massive heart attack and sank to his knees. I called for help, the nurses and doctors came, and collectively they saved my Dad’s life. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the end of my Dad’s journey to the restroom that day was the start of my journey into healthcare talent management.
Fast forward eight years to Winter 2017, my Dad was comfortably living in an in-law apartment we built for him, firmly addicted to both cable TV and gardening. I was comfortably working at Oracle, having helped launch the first Oracle Sales Academy, but beginning to wonder what might be next for my career — that’s when I heard about HealthcareSource through a good friend at the company. The tagline immediately got me: Quality talent. Quality care.
I was intrigued. A few Google searches later and I stumbled on this research paper by the National Institutes of Health, “The Association of Registered Nurse Staffing Levels and Patient outcomes: Systemic review and meta-analysis.” This meta-analysis found that if nurse staff levels were increased by just one more nurse across 1,000 hospitalizations, then there would be five fewer deaths in the ICU, six fewer deaths in surgery, and 26 fewer deaths from failure-to-rescue.
The NIH study cited all kinds of other research, and I kept reading. The outcomes of another research paper, “Optimal nurse staffing to improve quality of care and patient outcomes” hit me right in the chest: “Increased RN staffing was associated with 28% decreased odds of a patient experiencing cardiac arrest in the ICU, 30% decreased odds of a patient acquiring pneumonia during hospitalization, 51% decreased odds of unplanned extubation, and 60% decreased odds of respiratory failure.”
Until that point, it had never occurred to me that what happened to my Dad – “a patient experiencing cardiac arrest in the ICU” was anything other than a freak accident. In my naivety, I assumed that once you got to the ICU, you were safe, at least from the possibility of more heart attacks. I’d also never thought that staff levels could be a contributing factor to whether patients were exposed to this kind of risk.
The research I did that day opened my eyes to the critical role that talent plays in delivering quality care, and I knew that I wanted to be part of solving that challenge. A few weeks later I accepted an offer to be the Chief Marketing Officer at HealthcareSource. Around a year ago, I added Chief Strategy Officer to my title and now do my best to apply 20+ years of experience across talent management solutions to the healthcare space. In all that time, I’ve never stopped researching the connections between talent and patient outcomes.
I’ve since come to understand that what happened to my Dad wasn’t anyone’s fault. The system was just overloaded in that moment – too many patients with too much acuity in too tight a window. If anything, I’ve learned to be grateful for the training and professionalism of the staff. When the crisis moment arrived, they were prepared and well-trained, and it was ultimately their skills and teamwork that saved him. Assuming my Dad doesn’t have another heart attack this week from game seven of the current Stanley Cup series, I assume he’ll be with us for at least a few more years.
The next step for him likely includes some home health services and probably not long after, a move into some sort of senior living organization. As a company, we’re on that same journey. With our acquisition of Vikus in 2018, HealthcareSource has made a major investment in the senior living space. We now have over 3,000 facilities using our Senior Living solution, and we’re adding significant new functionality and capability to the solution on almost a weekly basis.
At the heart of it all though, that same focus remains – Quality Talent, Quality Care. In some ways, we’re finding that this connection is even more powerful in Senior Living where the population is more vulnerable and sometimes more alone. Here the connection isn’t just about health outcomes and mortality but also quality of life. In nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, research has shown that lower staffing levels aren’t just correlated with mortality, but also an increased percentage of residents who experience moderate to severe pain and who have indwelling catheters, contractures, and pressure ulcers. There is even an increase in the use of psychotropic drugs and restraints. All of these metrics improve with increased staffing levels.
This Father’s Day, more than any previous, I’m thinking about my Dad – how much longer he’ll be with us, what his experience will be in the coming years, and how grateful I am to still have him in my life. I’m reminded of how much his journey has influenced my own and how proud I am to work in an organization that is so central to the successful delivery of quality care across our entire healthcare market.
Gain more insights from HealthcareSource leaders by registering for this year’s Talent Symposium Series – coming to a city near you.