The Rules of Engagement

February 26, 2010

By Myke Folger



Outstanding Health Care Executive (Puget Sound Region): Tie

Doctors, administrators, nurses, you name it. They were not
happy when their workplace, Puyallup-based Good Samaritan Hospital, was taken
over by Tacoma’s MultiCare Health System. Newly appointed CEO John Long had a
Herculean task ahead of him.

How was he to change the downtrodden culture within an
overextended organization and make employees know that he was for real, that
the new partnership was for real? He would give them a tower.

“The community had been promised a new hospital for 15 or 20
years, and it [the new facility] just couldn’t be pulled off,” Long says. “The
affiliation enabled us to fulfill that promise. That was the cornerstone of the
agreement, to build the tower.”

John Long
John Long of Tacoma’s MultiCare gave the staff of Good
Samaritan Hospital a new sense of community by pledging to build a new tower, and
then following through.

The $400 million tower, spreading across 350,000 square feet
and nine stories, is on track for a 2011 opening-which, Long insists, wouldn’t
have happened without MultiCare’s medical expertise, financial backing and

But when Long outlined the construction of the tower as a
goal, the staff remained skeptical. Long was the hospital’s sixth president in
six years. Employee morale was not hostile, but it was defeated. So when Long
came on board in 2006, he met with every staff member he could and outlined the
vision: that MultiCare Good Samaritan would be the trusted regional medical
center of choice for every person in east Pierce County. And he set a deadline
to achieve that goal.

“This was our vision for 2012,” Long says. Administrators
translated that into annual targets, and Long kept the staff in the loop.
Gradually, things began to change.

Long saw two things in particular. The first was a
significant improvement in morale between 2006, when employees gave abysmal
scores on a morale survey, and the end of 2007, when the staff offered a
phenomenally better response on a similar survey. The second event was the
groundbreaking for the tower, and when everyone saw truckloads of steel coming

“Some of the greatest cynics felt it was finally happening,”
Long says. “Even the most cynical of doctors said, ‘You know, this is really
going to happen.'”

The turnaround in morale at MultiCare Good Samaritan has
resulted in new momentum. The quality of care has risen, financial performance
has improved and employee satisfaction is high.

“You could call 25 doctors and hear, ‘This is a really good
place,'” Long says. “It’s been a great journey for the staff and community.”

Engaging with the Mission

Craig Hendrickson expands Overlake’s mission.

Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue has also
benefited from substantial new investments. Under the stewardship of CEO Craig
Hendrickson, Overlake saw the construction of its $133 million south tower,
which increased the hospital’s size and capacity by nearly one-third.
Hendrickson also supervised off-campus renovation and construction initiatives
including refurbishing the Paccar Education Center, expanding and relocating
Overlake Medical Center Issaquah, remodeling the Childbirth Center and adding a
helipad to support the hospital’s Level III Trauma Center. In addition,
Hendrickson is guiding the hospital as it heads into a $32 million, fully
integrated, electronic medical-record-keeping system.

“The major advantage of that is the ability to transfer more
complete information electronically,” Hendrickson explains. And with the new helipad
in place, Overlake may see more of the patients that are now routinely flown to
Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

But one of the most crucial programs he introduced to the
organization was the launch of a cultural crusade to focus on accountability.
He brought in consultants to help define the problems and to establish some
basic values that would promote the hospital’s mission and vision. Then he
followed up with staff training to make sure everyone understood what needed to
happen and to engage the employees in the creation and maintenance of that

“In the end, it [Overlake’s culture] empowers and engages
them in their profession and with the whole organization,” Hendrickson says.
“When you’re working on culture, you’re never done with it.”

To make sure that the program was effective, Hendrickson had
the hospital’s health care advisory board develop a survey tool that measures
not just job satisfaction but also employee engagement with the culture and
mission of the organization. The survey results are too new to draw
conclusions. But Hendrickson points out that 88 percent of the 2,500 employees
at Overlake took the survey-that in itself is an impressive show of engagement.


Michael Carter, CEO, Stevens Hospital

In the three years that Carter has led Stevens Hospital in
Shoreline, he converted the financially hemorrhaging health care provider into
a thriving institution and started capital additions and improvements that
exceed $18 million. The development and expansion of programs and services in
wound healing, women’s services, cardiac care and a mother/baby unit rank among
the best in the nation.

Back to main story