I suspect I’m like many people in our area. I’ve spent some time at Fletcher Allen as a patient. I’ve watched in awe as my children came into the world there. I’ve visited friends and family there countless times. I have a long history there. I’m guessing I’m also like many people who tend to take our hospital for granted in some ways. So much so that when I was invited to participate in the Community Rounds program recently, I was actually somewhat skeptical. Was this part of a larger PR strategy by the hospital? What would they let me see? Would the information given to me be controlled? Would this be a true glimpse into the organization or would it be a scripted presentation?
Well… shame on me. My experience was an authentic one that I will treasure for some time to come. It was truly an honor to share an “internship” experience with a group of smart and engaged people from our community. What we were exposed to was two days in the life of Vermont’s largest health care facility. We learned what it means to be a teaching hospital. We learned the value of affiliations and partnerships with other area hospitals. We learned that real challenges are being faced here: from infections to antiquated patient rooms to electronic health records to managing a team of 7000 in the face of a health care reform that no one can accurately predict.
Over the course of the two days I listened to some very impressive presentations. We heard from the leadership of Fletcher Allen, the College of Medicine and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. We heard from researchers. We heard from doctors. All very impressive. I also learned from what I saw. I saw people who were happy. I saw interested people. I saw people collaborating with each other. I had heard of morale issues at Fletcher Allen in the past, but my eyes didn’t show me that.
I spent time in Dermatology with Dr. Kathryn Schwarzenberger and Dr. Glenn Goldman of Fletcher Allen, and Dr. Audrey Wen of the Community Health Center of Burlington. I found all three to be dedicated, passionate, driven and from what I witnessed very skilled at their jobs. Each of them wanted to help me understand what they were doing, often drawing me in for a closer look. I witnessed both patient interactions and procedures. I asked both broad and specific questions, all of which were answered. I became more intrigued every minute, wishing I would have more time with these folks.
One big question lingered until the end. How do the leaders, in the face of such uncertainty in health care, foster an atmosphere of hope and inspiration? How do they align such a large group with such diverse responsibilities to a common mission? I think the answer comes with some reflection after my experience. Among other things I’m sure, the leaders have done a good job at attracting the type of individuals who care deeply about the community they live and work in, and understand the significant role that Fletcher Allen plays in the overall health and vitality of our community. Fletcher Allen Heath Care. That’s the key.
Kevin Owens is the CEO of Select Design, and was a Fletcher Allen community rounds intern in the fall of 2012.