Mount Sinai VP Jackie Conrad
in Nursing Management Leading to Positive Results
Written by John Fries
For more than 80 years, Mount Sinai Hospital has been
providing health care for individuals and families living on Chicago's
West Side. What started in 1919 as a 60-bed hospital founded to serve
needy European immigrants and train Jewish physicians is now the 432-bed
flagship of the Sinai Health System. The system also includes Schwab
Rehabilitation Hospital (located across the street from Mount Sinai),
Sinai Community Institute, and the Sinai Medical Group.
Sinai Hospital is a teaching, research and tertiary care facility
that provides state-of-the-art medical and surgical care to a predominantly
African-American and Latino community. Over the years, the hospital
has been expanded and enhanced in many ways with a Level I trauma
center, a child abuse diagnosis-treatment-prevention unit and a high-risk,
Level III maternity and infant intensive care program. And in the
past few years alone, the hospital opened a state-of-the-art outpatient
care center, the Goodman Family Maternal and Child Center and a completely
renovated and expanded emergency and trauma facility.
has remained constant is the hospital's basic commitmen--first and
foremos--to the needs of each patient.
a mission-driven organization," said Jackie Conrad, RN, CRRN, vice
president of Patient Care Services for Mount Sinai and Schwab Hospitals,
"and we attract mission-driven people."
to Conrad, the staff at the hospital--administrators, physicians,
nurses, and other--genuinely care about the patients they serve. Conrad
knows this well. She's been part of the Sinai family since 1984, when
she first walked into Schwab Rehab Hospital to begin her clinical
rotation. Conrad, who earned a Bachelor's degree in science at nearby
St. Xavier University, stayed at Schwab Rehab for the next 18 years,
eventually becoming its nursing administrator.
January 2002, Mount Sinai and Schwab Rehab underwent reorganization
aimed at creating efficiencies through the sharing of resources, and
Conrad was named vice president of patient care for both facilities.
Given some of the issues that exist in the health care environment
today, not the least of which is a nursing shortage, Conrad has enjoyed
a high level of success in her relatively new position, thanks to
a strong sense of innovation.
of the issues I faced when I joined Mount Sinai was a 50 percent turnover
rate among new graduate nurses," said Conrad. "This is a great place
to work, and I couldn't, at first, understand why so many nurses were
she arrived at the idea of conducting focus groups involving about
15 new grad nurses each quarter. Once the new nurses were given the
opportunity to express themselves, it didn't take long for a pattern
discovered that many of the veteran nurses were creating an environment
for new graduate urses that was unfriendly and non-supportive," said
Conrad. "They were challenging the new nurses to prove themselves,
rather than making them feel at home. I knew something had to be done
to change this.
response, the hospital has implemented 'Cultivating Caring,' a quality
improvement initiative that provides a focused approach to help nurses
work better together and with patients. "Because customer service
surveys indicate that a key driver of patients' perceptions of quality
of care is directly related to how they perceive nurses' understanding
and caring, 'Cultivating Caring' focuses on awareness of the human
touch", said Conrad.
"This includes eye contact, soft tone of voice, listening skills
hospital has also launched a telephone hotline for patient complaints,
and nurses are encouraged to offer an apology to patients and to handle
complaints on the spot. To foster a friendly work environment among
established and new nurses, a program called 'Red Carpet Treatment'
is now underway. The hospital provides first year nurses with a blue
ribbon to affix to their name badges, and encourages administrators
to welcome the new nurses with a smile when they see them in the hallways.
Photos of new hires are also placed on the nursing units.
said the programs have motivated a considerable amount of positive
feedback, and results. Conrad also eliminated the hospital's need
for outside nurses. "Previously, we had a high reliance on agency
nurses for staffing," said Conrad. "As we've continued to modify how
nursing leaders and staff nurses interact, our reliance on agencies
has decreased. We're offering more flexible scheduling and improving
nurse-to-patient ratios. Last year, we had the equivalent of about
37 full time employees who were agency nurses. Now there are none
on patient care units, although a few of the agency nurses have joined
is proud of Mount Sinai's growth. The hospital has achieved children's
hospital status, and, since last summer, has exceeded benchmarks for
births. Conrad notes that future plans include adding a pediatrics
area to the emergency room, making it more child-friendly, and growing
the cardiac care area with an expanded cath lab and a revitalized
open heart program. Three open-heart cases have already been performed,
and more are upcoming.
continue to look toward the future and continue to innovate," said