Leaders, Staff at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Go Back to School

July 2012
Like all hospital CEOs, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center’s Mark Webster has many decisions to make. How can he ensure the safety of patients in his facility? How can he ensure financial viability without adversely affecting quality? What’s the best way to keep staff energized and engaged?
Fortunately, some of his decisions – like integrating the IHI Open School online courses into leadership and staff training – are easy.
“It’s such an easy commitment,” Webster says. “I’m always wondering where to put our limited resources and there are very few things that are going to get you a return on investment like working with IHI and the IHI Open School.”
Webster was one of 110 staff members at Claxton-Hepburn, a private, not-for-profit, 130-bed community hospital in Ogdensburg, New York, who has taken the IHI Open School courses. Forty staff members, including the ten members of the senior leadership team, have taken all of the courses and earned their Basic Certificate in Quality & Safety from the IHI Open School. The hospital’s initiative, dubbed “Back to School,” started in 2010, thanks to the efforts of then nurse manager Jennifer Shaver and board member Linda Fay. In the past two years, the staff – ranging from Webster and the executive team to seasoned clinicians and recent hires – have collectively completed more than 700 online modules.
“We’re in a very rural location and our resources are often constrained,” says Shaver, now a Clinical Informatics Analyst. “We take shameless advantage of any available educational opportunities which augment what we’re already doing as a hospital.”
The IHI Open School catalog now includes 18 courses, providing 23.5 contact hours that physicians, nurses, and pharmacists can earn. Learners who complete the core courses – 16 of the 18 – earn a Basic Certificate, which they can then include on their CV and in their professional portfolio. Organizations can purchase group subscriptions to train large numbers of staff – training 50 to 100 clinicians, for example, costs $5,400.
“The value and return on investment are amazing,” Shaver says.
Shaver and Webster pinpoint two primary benefits from their training efforts:
  • The culture at the organization moved away from “Who did it?” to “How did it happen?”
    Often in hospitals, instinct compels leaders to look for someone to blame when something goes wrong. Webster explains that this is not how Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center operates: “For me and many people, mistakes happen, and we aren’t looking at one another to blame,” he says. “We want to understand why it happened.”
    Staff now communicate in a common language when speaking about quality improvement and patient safety.
    This helps communication in all areas of the facility – whether it’s about care for patients or improvement projects. “Now, as a hospital, we can share issues in a common language across departments and find real solutions,” Shaver says.
Webster and Shaver attribute these results not only to the commitment of staff, but also to the safe and balanced learning environment present in the IHI Open School courses.
“Our primary drive is patient care, but you want to have a learning environment that’s safe,” Webster says. “I could take a course, make a mistake on a test, and the whole world wouldn’t see it. I probably learned more from the wrong answers on the test.”
And like many others at the organization, the courses have educated Webster on the importance of improvement and safety.
“The [IHI Open School] curriculum clearly impacts outcomes,” Webster says. “People assume hospitals are safe places, but you’ve got complicated processes with multiple participants. It can be a prescription for failure.”
Having the CEO as one of the leaders of the initiative has been a prescription for success at Claxton-Hepburn.
“This is one of those times when you have to lead by example,” Webster says. “Safety has become a core value – it is who we are.”

Editor’s Notes: For more information on how Claxton-Hepburn rolled the training out to staff, contact Jennifer Shaver.
The Claxton-Hepburn leadership team’s initiative to complete the IHI Open School courses also received attention from its local newspaper. See that article here: http://northcountrynow.com/news/staff-claxton-hepburn-ogdnsburg-get-safety-and-quality-improvement-training-060724 
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