NorthShore SPD weathers pandemic pressure

March 24, 2022

Like all healthcare organizations during the last two years, the Sterile Processing department at NorthShore University HealthSystem faced a number of pandemic-related challenges.

“Instead of dwelling on the negative we turned our attention to opportunities and found ways to seize the moment to drive change,” said Courtney Mace Davis, Director, Sterile Processing. “This started with posting and reinforcing our department’s strategic plan. With NorthShore’s mission, vision and service values as our guide, our team identified additional values that were important to us as an SPD department. Using ANSI/AAMI ST90 as guidance, we collectively defined our quality policy, quality objectives and core values.”

SPD uses this strategy to recruit and interview for new staff, Mace Davis continues, because they want candidates to know what SPD is looking for in its team members and what they can expect once they join the team.

“With the patient at the center, clinical excellence is key to our health system’s culture,” said Gus Granchalek, Vice President, Perioperative Services & Anesthesia. “With this guiding our way, we have been able to build upon our expertise and talent to provide differentiated care to our patients and communities by continuously asking ourselves how we can be incrementally better.

“We want to hire the best fit,” Granchalek continued. “Like any good team, we are a compilation of different talents and perspectives that leads us to more diverse and innovative solutions to the challenges we face. As we hire, we emphasize transparency, our commitment to excellence and how our team plays a vital role in actualizing that. Our pace of innovation and accountability makes NorthShore a rewarding place to work for many. We receive comments about how professional and solution-oriented our teams are when working alongside our colleagues in the ORs and other areas.”

NorthShore and SPD leaders stress that patient and staff safety are non-negotiables. Data form the basis of conversations and decision-making designed for continuous improvement, according to Mace Davis.

“What makes our strategic outlook different than others is our focus not on what we want to do, but how we’re going to do it,” she said. “We strive for excellence every day by considering the possibilities of how tomorrow can look better than today. We focus on corrective action (prevention) instead of only correction (fixing the problem at hand). This is difficult when volumes are high and staff are stretched thin, but we understand that if we don’t invest that time today no improvement will be sustained.”

One of the primary pandemic-related challenges involved staffing.

“Yes, we definitely experienced this,” Mace Davis acknowledged. “By initiating daily supervisor calls between our hospitals, we were able to assess daily volumes and staffing levels and send staff to help at other locations as needed. This was a reactive approach to managing staff shortages but allowed us to successfully leverage our strength as a system.”

But SPD didn’t stop there.

“Additionally, I personally met with most of the staff that were still committed to our NorthShore team,” she continued. “Exit interviews can provide helpful information, but I felt it was important to have those conversations before someone decided to leave the organization. These were in person, face-to-face conversations outside of the work area. Gathering this feedback in a relaxed, open forum and addressing concerns went a long way in showing our commitment to staff retention.

“When we have bad days or there are challenging times like many departments faced during the pandemic, we know we can rely on each other for support and emotional safety,” Mace Davis added. “Candor with compassion is emphasized as we know that’s the only way to improve, even when it leads to uncomfortable conversations.”

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Original photo courtesy Bayhealth SPD, HPN's 2021 SPD of the Year, with affects added by generative AI.
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