Sanford recognizes safety and compliance with Compass Award

With a strong commitment to a safe environment, leaders say every moment matters

Safety in the workplace is critical for any health care organization and Sanford Health is no exception. Safety is a top priority.

The organization is taking steps to maintain a safe environment for its employees, patients and residents, and communities by striving for an accident-free workplace each day.

Empowered to speak up

Sanford Accountability for Excellence (SAFE) is the organization’s commitment to patient safety through its people.

From the front lines to the boardrooms, at its most basic level, President and CEO Bill Gassen says the SAFE initiative is about speaking up.

“SAFE is about developing a culture within this organization that tells everybody, regardless of your role or the area within your organization that you work, we want to hear from you. We want you to speak up. We want you to feel empowered to speak up,” Gassen tells Sanford Health News.

A lawyer by training, Gassen has a special affinity for compliance.

“This isn’t about rules and regulations and a list of do’s and don’ts, but it is about how as an organization, we allow our people to feel empowered,” Gassen said. “We want to make sure that every single person knows and feels that they matter and that they’ve got a place, position and responsibility to be heard and to make sure that they’re lifting up things that are important, things that we should be doing, things that they don’t believe we should be doing.

“We want to make sure they know that we’re going to hear them and we’re going to respond.”

As chief compliance officer, Robb Schlimgen oversees compliance and privacy programs.

“A lot of people think of compliance as something that happens in the background, like a department that comes in when something maybe goes wrong. In reality, compliance is happening every day on the front lines and beyond,” Schlimgen said. “So, it’s important to take a moment every year, through the Compass Award, to recognize employees who really are doing the hard work each day, asking the difficult questions and doing the right thing.”

Recognizing Compass Award recipient

With its annual Compass Award, Sanford Health recognizes an employee who has demonstrated integrity, excellence or initiative in supporting a culture of compliance.

Teresa Kershaw is the recipient of the 2020 Compass Award. Kershaw is a respiratory care manager in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“It’s tremendous,” Kershaw said about receiving the recognition.

But she credits her staff for the work they did through the busiest days of COVID-19 positive patients in the hospital. Her team created a new COVID-19 unit and a new off-campus unit, and opened a new NICU during the pandemic. Kershaw oversaw the transition and made sure everyone had the supplies they needed.

Dr. Michael LeBeau, president and CEO of Sanford Health in Bismarck, said this award speaks volumes to her leadership and the respiratory therapy department.

“The stress and strain our respiratory therapists were under was significant,” Dr. LeBeau said. “What really sets Teresa apart, not only was she 100% supportive of her group but she was very conscientious and led with safety. We’re proud of this award for Bismarck as we continue the journey to high reliability.”

Kershaw said it’s wonderful that her teammates care so much, and they know she cares for them.

“It’s a family in this department,” she said. “We look out for one another and it’s great to know they feel the same way. Ultimately, it’s for the patients.”

For that reason, Gassen’s message for Kershaw is “thank you.”

“Thank you for the incredible work that you do,” he said. “Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for being an advocate for what matters in this organization and making sure that every single one of the Sanford Family members knows that they matter, knows that they have a voice and knows that we want to hear their voice.”

How recipients are selected

Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society employees were asked to nominate a co-worker or leader who met the below criteria:

  • Demonstrates integrity in their words and actions
  • Maintains an “open-door” policy
  • Takes accountability for doing the right thing
  • Admits mistakes and uses them as opportunities for improvement
  • Promotes compliance awareness
  • Goes above and beyond to fix a process
  • Prevented, detected or corrected a compliance error

Previous Compass Award winners include clinic president Luis Garcia, M.D., in 2019, patient and financial services director Tony Morrison in 2018 and nuclear medicine supervisor Bill Beard in 2017.

“I think it becomes incumbent upon all of us to lead with safety, not only when it’s easy, but difficult times,” Dr. LeBeau said. “When the respiratory therapy staff was short, they were able to lead with safety, had a questioning attitude and that the care was what we want it to be.”

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Posted In Allied Health, Awards & Recognition, Bismarck, Company News

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