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Straight Talk

February 26, 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Many of us talk about the “NCH culture”—and how important it is to ensuring the satisfaction of our patients and their families and the pride of our physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and every one of us who contributes to patient care.

But what exactly is the NCH culture and why does it matter?

Part of the answer lies in the way we structure our lives and our approach to our workday tasks and goals. Stated simply, at NCH we need to combine efficiency (doing things well) with effectiveness (doing the right things), as we make optimal use of limited resources.

In this context, two individuals who have played a huge role in stimulating the NCH culture over the past year are Chris Vasta, Sr. Management Engineer and Mustafa Abdulali, our new Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and expert Director of Lean Transformation, who have taken lead roles in redesigning our workspace, processes and environment. The science that Mustafa and Chris practice is known in academic circles as “Operations Management.” It has been around since World War II, originating with logistics experts tasked with moving to the front lines the right amount of equipment, food, fuel, ammunition, and people with the right skill—while using the least amount of time and energy.

Today, we can use this same science at home, in designing, for example, workspace in a kitchen. Planners know that the triangle among the sink, refrigerator and stove should be less than nine feet. Everyday silverware and dishes should be stored at an easy height near the dishwasher, which should have clean and dirty landing space.

Translating this science to NCH, in one example, Mustafa and his team built a full-scale cardboard replica of our new Sterile Processing Department (SPD), responsible for cleaning and sterilizing all of the surgical instruments used in our 12 busy downtown operating rooms. I must say I was impressed when I first saw the three-dimensional SPD model with its cardboard pillars, doors and other elements in the exact place they will be in the finished facility. The input of our SPD colleagues on the front line will help ensure that the final design yields a better and more efficient SPD. Being able to visualize and then physically walk through the new space makes all the difference in the world.

Another example of our operations management expertise is the office of Director of Behavioral Health Susan Kimper, who changed her office to a more healing environment to make more palatable the necessarily tough conversations in behavioral health. Susan cleared out space and introduced a warmer workplace to more effectively accommodate her particular patients’ needs.

Similarly, Associate Chief Nursing Officer Laurie Zone-Smith sought a more collaborative space to replace her administrative office, so she is redesigning her workspace around a common area for sharing. In Radiology, where we needed to make our scheduling more convenient and expeditious, we used Lean Technology to accomplish those goals.

All of these more efficient and effective operations improvements, some borrowed from other service and supply industries, help all of us build a winning culture at NCH.


Allen Weiss, M.D. Signature

Allen S. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO

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