August 22, 2019 — As the group themselves aptly put it, I spent some quality time with the quality management team this afternoon! Manager Kat Worten greeted me right inside the Sadler Center for Quality and immediately ensured I was stocked up with a full plate of barbecue, a perfect pairing with the team’s brightly colored, picnic-themed décor. We had gingham tablecloths, kites and streamers, and a friendly bunch of giant (fake) ants ready to serve up some fruit treats. Systems Analyst Patti Seaney and Administrative Associate Mary Isela Mendoza had even taken the time to make me key lime pie from scratch! I guess word about my favorite dessert (besides my mom’s famous torta mil hoja, of course) gets around.

Our extra guests at the picnic (don’t worry — they weren’t real)

As we began chowing down, Kat set the stage for all of the complex and important work this team does. “We do a lot of supporting each other in our journey toward zero harm,” she stated. She also emphasized QM’s focus on transparency, accountability and setting reliable principles to guide the entire organization in facilitating safe, excellent care for every kid we serve. From there, individual QM experts took turns describing just how they accomplish their vast responsibilities — conceptualizing and executing quality performance efforts; offering education and support on regulatory requirements, performance measures and best practices; and spreading the word on evolving safety initiatives — as a team.

Pointing out QM’s wins in cardiac arrest prevention

Between system analysts, support analysts, clinical data coordinators, site coordinators and quality improvement coordinators, the QM squad handles a great deal, and in every corner of the Hospital. For example, Patti explained how she launched the very first Rady Children’s electronic safety reporting system in 2007, and then oversaw the switch to our current platform, Real Learning for Safety, in 2018. I enjoyed that she focused on the technical and how valuable RLS is for holding us accountable and keeping patients and staff safe, but also threw in some fun tidbits about the evolution of the penguin mascot from grumpy to cheerful. Perhaps the penguin’s emotional growth has played a role in the more than 9,000 safety reports that have come through RLS for assessment! I also learned that this team is integral to our collaboration with regulatory bodies, including The Joint Commission, and helps prepare the organization for evaluations. Ensuring we comply with regulators’ standards is critical to our success and our ability to effectively and safely care for patients, and I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have the very capable QM team involved with this ongoing process.

In addition to partnering with external entities, QM staff including QICs Judy Bergman and Mary Jordan explained how the team works extensively with departments and leaders throughout Rady Children’s. Mary, for instance, teams up with quality pharmacists on the Medical Safety Committee, which strives to reduce the rate of adverse drug events; while Judy leads the Safety Coach Champions program. “I’m always pleasantly surprised by the engagement,” she noted. I found out that many of the QM team members are nurses who have experience at patient bedsides and in the world of quality oversight, which no doubt provides a fantastic and comprehensive “big picture” for being successful in their work, and in connecting with current clinical staff. As a final example — I could write for pages about this team’s work! — CDC Chona Mariano discussed QM’s many safety bundles, including in her area of expertise, cardiac critical care. She told me that Rady Children’s is one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation for preventing cardiac arrest in patients, thanks in large part to our bundle. Certainly something to be proud of!

QM scrubs made just for me!

As our visit drew to a close, the team presented me with some awesome gifts. I received a “Good Catch” Frisbee and pin, which are given to staff who use QM procedures and systems to help identify potential safety barriers, as well as a team badge lanyard. Perhaps the coolest gift of all, however, was my personalized set of QM Safety Coach scrubs, which Mary Isela presented me with.  Having been a Safety Coach at my prior hospital, I know the importance of a strong culture of safety and feel that patient and staff safety are our top priority as a healthcare system.

I think Chief Medical Safety Officer Dr. Glenn Billman provided a great summation of this team’s dedication and hard work, and what they do for the Hospital: facilitating and sustaining stability, and excelling in doing so. I couldn’t have said it better myself. To err is human, but because of this team, we’re able to keep ourselves accountable, care for every patient and ourselves in the safest way possible, and consistently build upon our successful systems. Thank you for everything you do to help make Rady Children’s a safe, compliant and smoothly running organization for everyone who walks through our doors.