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The Spirit of Collaboration: Cook Children’s Hurst UCC Thrives through Teamwork and Innovation

UCCBy Malinda Mason Miller

When COVID-19 struck, Cook Children’s Hurst Urgent Care Center (Hurst UCC) closed for nine months while employees were pulled into high-need areas, as COVID required “all hands-on deck” at other campuses.

When it was time to bring the team back together and re-open the clinic, Jen Bias, MSN, RN, Clinical Coordinator of Hurst UCC, and Lori Guzman, Practice Administrator, were tasked with a whole new set of challenges that began with creating a new clinical workspace so that doors would separate patients in compliance with rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Previously, they used curtains as separators between patients in their 21-year-old building – the urgent care center that has been around longest at Cook Children’s.

Jen and Lori put their heads together to reconfigure the space with the help of the facilities team. They got creative, asking the facilities department to bring in corrugated separators as doors to create “rooms” for patients.

But there was one problem. There were no doorknobs. The clinical team and even families had to slide the doors back and forth.

Jen and Lori knew there had to be a better way. Their minds immediately went to engineering a solution. They had to figure out how to add doorknobs to the new “doors.”

Then Jen had a bright idea: what if they used pop sockets (the ones that stick to the back of a cell phone) for door handles? It worked.

“It wasn’t ideal, but it really did what we needed it to do, given the new CDC standards,” Jen said.

It was a small solution that created a big fix.

“The pandemic really was a test of collaboration skills and even imagination,” Lori said. “But what we came up with worked both for the CDC requirements and for patients, not to mention our limited budget.”

Lori and Jen work together to foster a team atmosphere among staff at the Hurst UCC. They even jointly perform hiring interviews, whether the prospective employee is interviewing for the business unit, run by Lori, or the clinical team, led by Jen.

Jen has a special “reserved” seat in her office for Lori, who apparently is there so often, she can finish Jen’s sentences. And they both have a knack for hiring employees who would fit well into the team at Hurst UCC. A great fit means having the temperament and collegial spirit to work well with others – no matter how stressful the job gets.

Colleagues have seen Lori and Jen share a look during interviews that says the candidate is right for the culture. Being the right fit for this team includes a mixture of work ethic, positive attitude and/or collaboration skills.

The duo say leadership involves figuring out creative processes to smooth the employee experience, so the patient experience is that much more seamless.

Outside looking in

“When a team works well together and is connected, you can just feel it,” said Missy Staben, LSSGB, director, Experience Elevation, after shadowing the Hurst UCC this fall.

Missy is charged with elevating the experience – through people, process, and technology – so that the experience is top notch for sick kids and their worried families. When she came away from her time shadowing Hurst UCC, she was blown away.

“There’s something unique about this unit,” Missy said. “I noticed the back office and clinical staff were cohesive as a team and care for each other, as well as for their patients.”

Collaboration at Hurst UCC takes many forms. Lori mentioned a winter ice storm was another example of collaboration among both nonclinical and clinical staff. Without prompting, staff who live close to the clinic opted to switch schedules with employees who live far away so that there would be no interruption to patient care. Staff who could not make it into the clinic took calls and registered patients from home.

“Patients saw no difference in our ability to continue to serve them,” Lori said. 

Managers who normally do not work at the clinic put on snow boots and showed up to the clinic to help staff who were welcoming patients as they came in from the cold.

The little things

No one from the clinic seemed to be able to put their finger on why they all gel so well together as a team. As an outside observer looking in, Missy guessed it might be all the “little things” that add up. She hopes these things can be used in other locations to boost collaboration as well.

One of the “little things” Missy recalled is a box of birthday cards in the unit. Anyone may select a card and write a kind note to a colleague on their birthday.

“The team works really hard, so we want it to be fun to work here,” Jen said. “We pour into staff so that they can pour into patients.”

“We can only do this because Cook Children’s pours into us,” Lori added.

Ideas for Your Teams

According to Missy, Jen and Lori, other ideas to boost morale and staff collaboration that have worked well at Hurst UCC include:

  • Team leads may select an employee of the month, where an honoree may receive their own special parking spot, a certificate, t-shirt (or even just bragging rights).
  • Departments might feature a spotlight board in the break room with pictures of stellar staffers.
  • Managers give employees shout-outs during a team meeting or huddle and specify why they are an excellent colleague and team member.
  • Some employees host a pumpkin decorating contest at Halloween and ask patients to vote on the best one.

Feel free to drop us an email at InternalCommunications@cookchildrens.org to alert fellow staffers of incredible collaborators via newsletter article or Intranet post.