Employee Spotlight: Wendy Talbot on JRMC’s Culture Transformation

Jefferson Regional

Last year, JRMC began a journey to transform the hospital’s culture. The first step was to identify areas of growth – not just from an administrative standpoint – but also from the perspective of each and every JRMC employee; after all, they know JRMC’s day-to-day work culture best. Management began to reach out and listen, with the goal of becoming the hospital and employer of choice in South Arkansas.

When Brian Thomas accepted the position of JRMC President and CEO last year, he knew that changing the JRMC culture was at the top of his goals. In fact, this was such a high priority that an entirely new director position was created at JRMC. Wendy Talbot, longtime JRMC employee was named Director of Patient Experience and was tasked with facilitating this transformation.

As the Director of Patient Experience, Wendy knew that satisfied patients begin with satisfied employees. “It’s almost like my title should be ‘Director of Experience,’” she said. “My job focuses on the entire JRMC experience. This includes employee experience – it’s any kind of interaction that somebody has with JRMC.”

To begin, JRMC entered a coaching agreement with HealthStream, a healthcare employee engagement and development company, (recently purchased by Press Ganey) to lead our hospital through a four-year culture change process.

Under the direction of new CEO, Brian Thomas, JRMC launched the first official employee survey in 20 years. “When we got those results in, every department had to come up with an action plan to address what they were going to do about the issues identified by their employees,” Wendy said. “We carefully went through all the feedback different departments gave and developed action plans to respond directly to the their requests,” Wendy said.

This May, we are launching another survey to hear from our employees again with the goal of 100 percent participation. “We want to know how we’ve improved and where we still need to grow,” Wendy said.

In addition to the survey, many other changes were made: one being an initiative called Senior Leader Rounding. JRMC’s senior leaders are the 10 executive leaders of our hospital, including President and CEO, Brian Thomas; Senior Vice President and CFO, Bryan Jackson; Vice President and CMO, Dr. Reid Pierce; Vice President and COO, Peter Austin; Vice President and CNO, Louise Hickman; and Vice President of Strategy and Business Analytics, Jeremy Jeffery.

During Senior Leader Rounding, executive leaders visit different departments to get to know employees, hear feedback on their jobs and share information with the employees on what’s going on in the hospital. Each quarter, every department is visited by one senior leader who asks employees what their needs are, what they enjoy about their jobs and how JRMC can further support them.

In addition to speaking with employees during Senior Leader Rounding, Brian Thomas, President and CEO, makes Town Hall Meetings a priority. During these meetings, Brian updates employees on JRMC’s marketing, physician recruitment, future plans, financial state and more. At the end of the meetings, employees are encouraged to ask any questions. Town Hall Meetings are designed to facilitate transparent, two-way communication between administration and employees.

Although communication between senior leaders and employees is important, the communication between fellow coworkers is just as important. That’s why we launched RELATE Communication Trainings this year. Relate Trainings educate employees on communication strategies to relate to their fellow coworkers and patients. Every JRMC employee is required to attend these meetings, in which two facilitators discuss the importance of communication, professionalism, taking ownership of the JRMC culture, and much more.

Melody Bray, Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse at JRMC, said she already sees the effects of these efforts in the hospital. “I have definitely seen a change since JRMC started strategically improving the culture and offering the Relate Trainings,” she said. “Throughout all the different departments, it’s so easy to work with everyone. Both the work flow and communication is a lot better throughout the whole hospital.”

JRMC also implemented “Stay Interviews” in which administration asks for nurses’ feedback on why they’re staying at JRMC or what needs they have. “Most organizations want to speak with their employees when they’re on the way out the door, but we want to give nurses the opportunity to give feedback while they’re here at JRMC,” Wendy said. “That way, we have an opportunity to hear from them and ask what they enjoy about their jobs and also ask how we can improve the work environment for all our nurses.”

Wendy said giving JRMC nurses the best work environment possible is at the top of JRMC’s priority list. “JRMC invests greatly in our employees and their future, because we’re dedicated to being the hospital of choice for employment in South Arkansas. Here, nursing is the heart of what we do. We understand that nursing is more than just a job. To care for others the way nurses do, it has to be your passion, so we put top priority on taking care of our nurses. Nurses are what we’re all about.”

Wendy said she’s thrilled to see where JRMC is now and where we’re going. “We asked employees, ‘What can we do to make JRMC the hospital of choice and employer of choice?’” she said. “We’re listening to them, focusing on communication and creating action plans based on their feedback. To me, our hospital is unique because when you join the JRMC team, you become a member of the hospital-wide family, which is confirmed time and time again by the many employees that fondly call JRMC their ‘home away from home.’”


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