In July, Smart Square System Admins and other key leaders from across the country came together in Omaha for a few days of networking, education, and fun. Although Avantas facilitates quarterly all-client calls (in addition to bi-weekly individual client calls and site visits at least twice a year), the annual event is the only formal opportunity for all Avantas Smart Square clients to get together face-to-face.
At these annual conferences Avantas always arranges education sessions on the software and strategies in addition to industry hot topics, but the greatest value, we find, comes from the interaction between our clients. At Avantas, we put a lot of effort into ensuring we are experts in the world of healthcare enterprise labor management. Part of being an expert, however, is knowing when to take a back seat and learn from the experts around you, the individuals, like us, who live resource management day in and day out – our clients.
Besides education on things like cyclic patterns, position control, etc., several themes emerged from this year’s retreat:
This year’s keynote address was given by Sherry Kwater, CNO at Penn State Hershey. In this presentation Sherry focused on what accountability is, and perhaps more importantly, what it is not. Sherry pointed out that being accountable for something does not make you a target. It shouldn’t be a blame game when someone comes up short. Instead, failing to reach a goal should be viewed as an opportunity to discover what obstacles might be preventing that person from achieving their goals, and then finding ways to help surmount them. Sherry’s presentation had a lot of memorable and inspirational moments, but for me her most poignant line was this, “Responsibility can be bestowed but accountability must be taken.” For an initiative to be successful someone has to step up and own it.
In another session, Debbie McInturff, from Mountain States Health Alliance, talked about the journey her organization has been on with Avantas. As one of our longest client relationships, Avantas and MSHA have grown together, and Debbie has been one of the pivotal individuals in that relationship. Debbie’s presentation was interactive and there was a lot of audience participation as she dove deep into the tools and strategies MSHA utilized to greatly reduce the number of travelers the system used in addition to drastically cutting incentives. One of the key takeaways from the presentation however was the idea that improving labor management is a process – it takes time. Changing habits, educating and reeducating staff, working with leadership to gain buy-in, tracking metrics, etc., takes commitment and focus to make the necessary changes to reach your goals.
Other conversations revolved around the need to remain positive on what is a long and at times difficult journey. True and sustaining change is rarely sweeping. Instead, it the result of small victories, failures, and lessons learned. It’s important to focus on the positive things and keep your eye on the little things that make the big things possible. Leadership must do what it can to set managers and staff members up for success, and then find time to celebrate those successes. It is easy to focus on those who need the most help, but it’s absolutely critical to shine a light on the people who are doing the right things, even the smallest things, and utilize them to influence others.
Perhaps the overarching theme of this retreat was collaboration. I say this for two reasons. First, a lot of the discussion was nuanced with examples of nursing working with finance, IT, or HR to get everyone on the same page relative to the strategies needed to reach goals. Second, as I looked around the room and saw people from different health systems sitting with one another, sharing ideas, talking about struggles, and laughing together, I reveled in the camaraderie that makes this retreat such a good event. Every year new clients join the fray and bring with them new stories of success, different ideas, and unique challenges.
Like I alluded to up top, some of the best discussions of the conference were initiated by questions individuals posed and the collaborative way in which possible solutions were shared. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but together we can tackle anything. We have expertise, but our clients do, too. This is why partnering with clients is so rewarding and successful. This is why year after year this retreat is such a draw. We are already looking forward to the next one.
To learn more about partnering with Avantas, email me at jackie.larson.com.