A lot can happen in a year. Four seasons come and go. A newborn grows into a walking toddler. A brand-new hospital opens its doors and becomes a vital part of a community.
When Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center opened in Newnan on Aug. 15, 2012, it had a distinct advantage. While the facility and many of the staff were brand new, the care model for treating advanced cancer patients had been developed and honed at CTCA’s four other centers across the country.
Operating from a common playbook has helped CTCA Southeastern avoid some of the common bumps of hospital startups. In fact, administrators are already planning an expansion that will double the number of patient beds (to 50) and operating rooms (to four).
Amanda Woodward, an infusion nurse and one of the facility’s initial 178 employees, was surprised by the extensive orientation process that began more than a month before the doors opened to patients. Getting to know everyone in the hospital — not just those in her unit — has helped her work more effectively.
“The culture here is different from any I’ve ever experienced,” said Woodward, BSN, RN. “Everything is completely about the patient and the staff is empowered to work together to overcome any obstacles that would stand in the way of providing the best care.”
That empowerment comes from personal relationships with fellow employees and with patients. Woodward recently spent time with a young mother and her family during the patient’s final days.
“I got to hold her 5-year-old child because I knew her and had played with her. It was so sad, but the mother was able to die with dignity, knowing that others would care for her child. It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” she said.
Two months into her job, the nurse took on the role of communicator for the infusion center. She keeps constant contact with the center’s clinics and care teams to learn more about infusion patients.
“I’ve learned so much about starting a hospital from scratch in this job, not just about how to stock an infusion center and where to put things, but about the processes and relationships that make it function,” Woodward said.
Continuity of care
Because all surgical, therapeutic and complementary services are under one roof, CTCA Southeastern is different from traditional hospitals. Something else that sets it apart is its Mother Standard of care, which means employees are charged with treating every patient as they would their own mother.
“Compassionate and nurturing care is our culture and we brought the majority of our executive team from other centers to ensure that it would continue,” said Gloria Barnes, chief nursing officer and assistant vice president of patient care services.
Nurses were hired six weeks before the Newnan hospital opened. They began learning procedures and processes on the computer, as well as how to identify and solve problems as the hospital came to life.
“We incorporate Six Sigma Green Belt training into all our units,” said Barnes, RN, MSN. “We listen to our staff and when they have a concern, they feel comfortable speaking up .”
In the last six months, her nursing team has reduced the patient call light response time to less than three minutes — 100 percent of the time.
“That means they are actually in the room, not just picking up the phone,” she said.
The infusion staff has streamlined the time it takes to start a patient’s medication.
“We’re now at less than 14 minutes to the hanging of the first bag, an accomplishment that contributes to our 90 percent patient satisfaction rate,” she said.
Barnes helped open CTCA’s Tulsa center 23 years ago and relished transferring her knowledge and passion to Newnan.
“For a brand-new hospital, the speed at which we’ve grown has been remarkable,” Barnes said.
It’s been a steep climb. Bridgett Thomas, house supervisor for patient care, has seen the staff grow from 178 to 450 in a year.
“It’s exciting to be part of this brand-new facility and atmosphere, but the growth has been challenging,” said Thomas, RN, BSN, ONS. “Our in-patient population can fluctuate from two to 20 in a week, so we come together to find the best practices and work through it. So far, we haven’t hit a roadblock.”
Previously a med/surge and travel nurse, Thomas was impressed by how she was welcomed at CTCA Southeastern.
“It’s like you’ve been adopted into a family. You’re valued and you’re there to help your patient find a better quality of life,” she said. “You can show your compassion, share positive energy and hugs. When my patients graduate from treatment, we grab the pom-poms and cheer. You don’t see that at many places.”
When she was a travel nurse, it was easy for Thomas to pick up and quit a job when she didn’t like something. Now she has no intentions of leaving. “I’m home,” she said.
“We made a celebration-of-life video for our unit,” she added. “We did the Harlem Shake, and I can’t wait to see it. We’ve had so many milestones to celebrate in our first year.”