5 keys to success when opening a new hospital

5 best practices for new hospitals

This year I'm working with an exceptional team in Fort Worth, Texas, to open a surgical hospital that is focused on creating a first-class experience for our patients and surgeons. As we progress through what can be an intense year of decisions, meetings and preparation, I try to encourage my leadership team to circle back to five key steps, which I believe will help us reach our end goal of providing an exceptional surgical hospital for our community.

1. Think like a patient. Whether as a patient or visitor, we've all been in a hospital and had ideas about what would have made our hospital experience exceptional. Thinking about what I would want to see as a patient coming in for surgery helps determine everything from signage to the design of the hospital rooms. For example, all of our hospital rooms will be VIP sized with plenty of comfortable space for family to spend the night. Providing luxe amenities, such as premium quality linens, customized meals provided by an onsite chef and concierge services, are ideas our team put into place as a result of "thinking like a patient."

2. Find and invest in top talent. During construction, a lot of investment will be made in facilities, equipment and technology; however, none of this is as important as the investment made in our team. Like many other markets across the country, Fort Worth is a highly competitive healthcare market. It is never too early to start looking for top talent. I look for employees that will not only fit in our organization culturally but also share our passion and commitment to provide first-class patient care. Once hired, I empower the employees to take ownership of their various departments. I bring them on early enough to have input into the workflow as well as the organization of their department. We work together as a team getting each department set up. It is so rewarding to see the pride a staff has in starting a hospital from the ground up.

3. Know your surrounding community. Hospitals need to be a part of the communities they serve. Once the site was chosen for our hospital, we immediately became involved in the community and the neighborhood. Community boards and the local chamber of commerce provide opportunities to get your hospital name out there in the community well before it opens. They also provide great opportunities for networking with local businesses that might be candidates for providing various services to your hospital. Our hospital joined Ft. Worth South, Inc., which is a nonprofit organization established to spearhead the revitalization of the medical district. Through our association with Ft. Worth South and the Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce, we have met numerous business owners in our hospital neighborhood and had many opportunities to promote our hospital.

4. Don't forget to get your hands dirty. As executives, we must have the view from the top. However, I believe leaders must also have a view from the bottom up. We all started somewhere and worked our way up. I started my career as an operating room nurse, and I try to never forget that. On a regular basis, I still work side-by-side with our nurses and physicians treating patients. I do this because I love taking care of patients and because interacting with our employees, surgeons and patients on a first-hand basis enables me to better understand how we can best meet patient needs, solve problems and create a better working environment for our staff. If you avoid getting in the trenches with your staff, it's easy to forget the hard work that is being done by people at all levels.

5. Never stop looking for ways to improve. There is an incredible amount of hard work that goes into building a hospital from the ground up. It is easy to sit back and think the job is done once the hospital opens its doors. However, as soon as you open the doors of your new hospital, new challenges will emerge — some you anticipate; others give you and your staff a chance to learn and grow. You have to always be looking for ways to improve the hospital for patients, physicians and staff. Continuous improvement is just that — it goes on continually.

Cheryl Spencer is the CEO of Victory Medical Center Fort Worth. As CEO, Ms. Spencer oversees all daily administrative activities at the facility. Ms. Spencer graduated from the University of Texas at Austin where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing with highest honors. After graduating, she started her OR career at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. She spent 16 years in surgery center administration before accepting the position of CEO of Victory Medical Center Fort Worth.

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