You know those people who you talk to for the first time, and it feels like you’ve known them for a long time? Well, that’s what it was like for me when I first picked up the phone and talked to Pamela Hessler. She was interested in a position with DTA and one of her first questions to me was, “Do I need to relocate to Minnesota?” As I recall, it was a frigid February morning and my answer was something like, “No, why would you ever want to do that?!” It turns out that even though they live in Baltimore, Maryland, Pamela’s husband is an avid Vikings fan, so he was very intrigued by the possibility! Now that Pamela has joined our team, we thought it would be fun to give you a chance to get to know her…
JG: So, let’s get started. Pamela, can you tell everyone a little about your background?
PH: As it relates to the work that we do, I spent almost six years working at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and then two years at the University of Maryland Medical System focused on their Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute. During my time at Maryland, I was able to really develop a lot of the skills that we use in our day-to-day work at DTA Associates with our clients. I had leadership responsibility for seven key focus areas: patient experience, staff engagement, volunteer services, community outreach, onsite hotel for patients and families, physician engagement, and special projects as needed.
JG: What drew you to patient experience?
PH: At DTA Associates, we talk a lot about our special people. Well, my special person is the reason that I gravitated towards patient experience. My special person is my Grandma. For my whole life, my Grandma was sick and in and out of the hospital. Two things that always stood out to me about her experiences:
- We joked that my Grandma treated a day trip to the hospital as a “spa day” because everyone knew her, and it was a guarantee that someone would listen to her and bring her what she needed/wanted.
- When visiting my Grandma at the hospital, I would ask her questions about her care team. One day there was a nurse’s name on the whiteboard in her room. I saw it and said “Oh, Megan is your nurse today?”, and she said “No, Megan was last night, I have a new girl today. I don’t know her name—she’s not very good.”
This was such an “ah-ha!” moment for me. I realized that if my Grandma didn’t know the name of her nurse, she perceived them as “not very good”. It had little to do with the nurses’ ability to provide care, but it was about the connection that my Grandma felt that she had with her care team. These are exactly the kinds of things we coach during our Care Team Coaching at DTA Associates.
Personally, I had my first of ten outpatient surgeries when I was four-years-old. I was lucky enough to have my Aunt as my nurse so I really did receive personalized care, but having my Aunt as my nurse isn’t what I remember most from the experience. What I remember most is being terrified, and a non-Aunt care team member bringing me a book, sitting with me, and reading the book during the time that my mom couldn’t be with me. I remember that, and the terrible root beer-flavored anesthesia, most of all!
JG: What has been your favorite part of your time at DTA Associates so far?
PH: My favorite part of my time with DTA Associates is first and foremost, the people—our team, the clients, and lots of people that I’ve met over the past six months. Beyond that, it is the collaborative nature of what we do. The goal of the whole DTA team has been to elevate each other, and our clients.
JG: Thinking back on your time as Director of Service Excellence, what’s one thing that you would do differently now?
PH: One of the last things I did during my time at Maryland was coaching nursing staff who had just implemented Bedside Shift Report, and also with some podiatrists who were struggling with their patient experience performance. Looking back on this, what stands out most to me—and I promise Janiece isn’t making me say this—is how disjointed that it seems to me now that I am so used to using our Care Team Coaching Tool.
When coaching I was able to make notes, recap with the physician or nurse in person, and I sent a report afterwards. It was a bit different though because I typed a long email with strengths and opportunities and cc’d everyone’s boss. Eeek!
Knowing what I know about coaching now, I would definitely have done a few things differently to help build the relationship between myself and the provider, and to help them improve their practice. And, using our Coaching Reporting Tool, I’d have been able to create a personalized but professional report for the providers I coached.
One thing really stood out to me during all of this though. A younger physician said to me, “Coming out of school, you’re always getting feedback. Then in the clinic, I only hear feedback if it is bad. I feel like I’d perform better if I had more of a pulse on my performance”. This fits so well with the strengths-based approach that I take to my coaching practice now.
Thanks Pamela, we look forward to hearing from you a bit more in the coming months here and in other places too! Join us for our next blog with Pamela: Etiquette for Providers Emailing Patients.