How an internal education program is improving patient care

Sanford Health employees encouraged to innovate through personal development.

By: Tim Gerszewski .

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After more than a decade in nursing, Brittany Jaehning’s ascent to management was natural for the lifelong learner. The North Dakota State University alumna now finds herself as the director of the Sanford Health Wahpeton Clinic in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Jaehning has developed a craft for care through personal development, including the Sanford Improvement Academy’s Leading for Improvement program, a learning opportunity for Sanford Health employees to develop skills that result in improved quality, safety and the patient experience.

The Buxton, North Dakota, native used Leading for Improvement to complete a project that explored how social determinants like access to transportation and family support influence diabetic care. With the help of face-to-face training, other Sanford Health leaders in the course and a coach from the program, she refined the project by collecting data from her location’s 150 daily visits and dived into the topic.

Her findings? Knowing these social factors informed a more effective care plan.

“We had an instance where a family discovered they were eligible for walkers to get around easier,” said Jaehning. “Had we not prompted the conversation because of this project, the couple may have been confined to their home.”

Bring value to the job

Sanford Improvement Academy courses include more than Leading for Improvement, though. Sanford Health employees can learn more about topics like creating 100-day plans and writing project charters through webinars and two-day “boot camps.”

The curriculum in the Sanford Improvement Academy was developed by the organization’s own experts. Each course considers how employees can bring more value to their roles.

“Our goal is to unify how we identify, approach and manage improvement efforts across the enterprise,” said Annette Schultz, senior improvement strategist at Sanford Health. “The curricula were designed to be applicable to improve performance of any job at Sanford Health — not just those with direct patient contact.”

Jaehning’s project has garnered notice. She’s presented at Sanford Health’s Performance Improvement Symposium and has also been invited to share her findings at the Minnesota Department of Health. Last week, the Sanford Health Wahpeton Clinic received the 2018 Sanford Quality Cabinet Award at the organization’s annual meeting in recognition of Jaehning’s work.

Improving patient care

Behind the numbers, though, the implications of her project for her patients certainly isn’t lost on the nurse-turned-manager.

“The impact on the patients was most fun to see,” she said. “It all comes down to improving patient care, and it’s a really great program that helps you do that, holds you accountable and gives you the tools to do the work.”

And Jaehning’s influence has inspired. Others in her clinic have decided to take on Sanford Improvement Academy courses and are pursuing projects to study immunization and other diabetes topics.

“The Sanford Improvement Academy content can be applied across our enterprise,” Schultz said. “It’s a meaningful opportunity for our employees to proactively improve their performance while positively influencing how we care for patients at Sanford Health.”