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Helping Kids Realize What They Can Achieve
Episode 351

Barbara Joers, President and CEO at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

Helping Kids Realize What They Can Achieve

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Helping Kids Realize What They Can Achieve

Episode 351

Recommended Book:

Redefining Healthcare by Michael Porter

Best Way to Contact Barbara:

LinkedIn

Email- bjoers@gillettechildrens.com

Helping Kids Realize What They Can Achieve with Barbara Joers, President and CEO at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare | Convert audio-to-text with the best AI technology by Sonix.ai

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes, and business success, with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez:
And welcome back to the podcast. Today I have the privilege of hosting Barbara Walczyk Joers. She’s the President and CEO at the Gillette Children’s Specialty Hospital. As President, CEO of the Specialty Healthcare, Barbara leads one of the top specialty hospitals and nation’s first hospital dedicated to serving children who have disabilities. Founded over one hundred and twenty years ago by the Minnesota State Legislature, Gllette’s time tested mission focuses on children who have complex disabilities rare disorders and traumatic injuries. Gillette is an independent delivery system with a moving campus and numerous outreach clinics and collaboration throughout the upper Midwest. Patients and families from every state and across the globe who have complicated conditions affecting the Moscow shuttle and neurological systems seek out the recognized care at Gillette. And Barbara is at the helm of the institution with her great team there. So it’s a privilege to have her on the podcast today. Welcome Barbara.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah so Barbara would I leave out in your intro that you want to share with the listeners?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
I think the only thing I would add or emphasize is the pleasure I get and my work both being in healthcare and at the hospital such as Gillette children’s is the ability to passionately advocate for children who have disabilities. I get to do this in my work at all levels. And it’s really a pillar in our strategic plan as well. So that’s the big notable I would say is missing.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Now it’s true and I appreciate you calling that out Barbara. We definitely need a lot more of that sum. I’m glad you and your team are doing such a phenomenal job there. I love to hear from you what got you into healthcare to begin with?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Well that concept of inclusion. Right. So my story goes back a long way Saul and I was a patient myself in my early childhood. When I was five, I was born to have a middle ear condition that impacts my hearing, facial structure, speech, and everything that goes along with that. So where it wasn’t life threatening it definitely was life impacting. From there, I had several surgeries and one of those surgeries I had a bad experience with a clinical staff number pretty late at night and my surgeon had to come in and he was tending to me. And when I asked him how to make sure this doesn’t happen again like most kids would have. He instead of giving me a clinical order or saying what I could do next time I was in the hospital. He leaned down close to me and said run a hospital and do it right.

Saul Marquez:
Wow.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Yeah he actually had it a lot more a set of words to that. But my mom didn’t appreciate those words. And she listens to this I don’t think she would want me to repeat those words but in order you know in healthcare things do happen and even sadly today when we should learn from it. But his words to me in that night every volunteer post I had with the hospital, if you talked to kids where I grew up that was my landing spot I just told people from that path forward I’m going to run a hospital. Any idea what that meant? And I wasn’t a child tidal chaser but it resonates for me and I hope my colleagues see I bring that passion every day.

Saul Marquez:
Well Barbara what an amazing story and you’re the perfect person to run the center that you’re running, the hospital that you’re running because of your empathy and your story really touches my heart because you know I just say from the very beginning it was something that was formative you decided and you followed through so really love that you shared that so curious what you believe is a hot topic that needs to be on every health leaders agenda and how are you guys focused on that at Gillette.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Yeah well outside of compassion for those you serve, I think change is a constant in healthcare. Everybody no matter what your stream of life sees change in healthcare is on every leader’s agenda and there’s really three key factors of change management that I would say needs to be on everybody’s radar and that a lot of lines of vision, capability, and courage. You want me to expand?

Saul Marquez:
Yeah I would love to.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
That’s great. Yeah. I can talk about this stuff forever. So it’s not that you know first the clarity in the long term objective. So as a leader you need to set the vision. Being a specialty hospital, that for us comes a little bit easier for us except when we think about what we serve with a children’s librarian uncommon disorders and we have a high case mix index which is really just the level of acuity of those we serve. We see unique things here and in the climate of mergers and integration are to elect kids who are often left out are not even considered when hospitals are considering their vision and where to move forward. So we really keep them in the front of every decision that we make not as a walk around or whatnot really saying we found a model of care that works so strategically in this time of change both at the policy level and the operational level. We can’t lose that sure North right. We found something that works in a care model and we must uphold that because it gets the outcomes and the experience for those who matter most in these debates of change. And that’s those we serve, the patient. After setting the vision, I think every leader then needs to look inward at the team and the capability and our ability determine the course. Beginning with a new strategy carried Gillette we aim to resource development first. The most strategies people think outward facing. We took a few years and said let’s look within. First and let’s improve our internal core capability to achieve that mission. So what do we need? What discipline do we need? What skills do we need to make progress towards what we want to be able to do for those we serve? And then after that initial strategy then start looking externally and saying things like “do we grow? How do we grow? Who do we partner with?” For us came after we spent some time on ourselves saying “what do we really know about ourselves? What are we capable of doing with that vision?” And then third we go into that courage because healthcare is… it’s daunting. It impacts every single one of us in a different way. And as a leader of an organization whether it’s here with my team or others that might be listening and we need to keep an eye on that long term goal that we set for organization and the courage to keep the course because there are so many disruptions to what we do on a daily basis. A policy change and operational thing there’s always going to be significant change in front of us. But we have to stay focused and what we need to achieve because at the end of the day we’re all committed to assuring our communities have access to the care that they need. So its a little bit of it all in it’s somewhat personal but I think that theme of change really needs to be first and foremost for most leaders today.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. No I think it’s such a great sort of step by step way of doing things and you know when you take a look at the capability that really struck me in your comments is that you looked inward instead outward and you know in the environment that we’re in. I think it would benefit a lot of leaders to do this. You know to look inward spend some time in knowing yourself kind of like that temple of Delphi for the individual that you are. I think you know they sell and they self be true and followed by courage. This is wonderful stuff that you’re doing there. Barb, would you want to share an example of how you and your team have created results by doing things differently?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Oh it’s been different from the onset so I have to definitely give a shout out to everybody who preceded me working here at Gillette over the decades of the century. We’ve responded to the changing times and responded really by having the ability of how can I say this… I don’t think it’s a coded word or a trademark for it but the integrated practice unit. So this is a model most recently referenced by Quarter and Lee that focuses on providing care around a condition. So for over 120 years at Gillette we’ve always been conditioned base but this concept of an integrated practice unit really gave us a structure for how to define our work to others. So just like you’re doing now is how do you get these learnings out to others so that they can influence what they’re doing. And so really an IPO is organized around a medical condition and a set of related conditions. It often involves dedicated very well-trained clinicians and staff who devote the majority of their career to this condition and then bringing these individuals together in a common workspace. So if you think of not just Gillette but in other disciplines maybe a cancer center or heart institute it’s bringing everybody together around these conditions to get that best possible outcome. And when you think about consolidation and merging out there right now in healthcare this is what we play for. We play for our care model and the ability to use it in a way that we hit everybody’s full potential. We reach the full potential of our patients and also the full potential of our staff that serve and that for me is like that perfect. How do we use it and how do we move forward different thing.

Saul Marquez:
I love that and it’s important to focus as much on the patient as it is on your people. Do you have any anything that you want to share as it relates to keeping your people motivated and keeping them feeling purpose driven?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Yes. So the great thing about our mission is it calls together a unique group of people. And so sometimes when people talk about how do we go about it it’s really that calling, clinical people are called the population that they serve. So that person’s pretty easy. And then when they focus and dedicate at Gillette, we spend a lot of time. If you work care for the caretaker and for those staff it’s how to make them feel part of that even if they’re not the ones delivering the care. So we spend a lot of time with patients stories and keeping all of our staff close to our strategy and our vision so that they see whether they’re in a back office or remote site in northern Minnesota. They feel just this part of it and they feel like when they step in the door they are actually moving forward because they are what our patients can do and they can achieve. We spent a lot of time trying to understand to bring that right culture and I haven’t failed. Everybody wants to work at Gillette but we have to be really careful about who we bring in because when we bring them in, it’s about longevity and about common purpose moving these outcomes forward.

Saul Marquez:
Love that.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
It’s not an easy stand there. The engagement of staff comes a little bit easier but it’s that how do we ensure that we’re not taking advantage and just living off our mission for our staff. We’re committed to them and every day we look at how can we make it better for them as well.

Saul Marquez:
Well definitely sounds like a place that I would like to work in and anybody listening would like to work. So kudos to you Barbara in the way that you do things there. So as you know gone through different years different changes as you said response matters. We’d love to hear from you of a time that maybe things didn’t work out so well and what you learn from that to make you guys better?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Just one? Well I need to be honest that you mean leadership is about making mistakes. Well it sure a lot more fun to learn from success and maybe not have as many mistakes. We learn from our failures and it’s important and it’s more troubling to learn from failures. In fact if you look at healthcare, we have a lot of mechanisms within the clinical world about analyzing failure and near misses because we know we can learn from it. That’s my way of saying I had to pick most of my what I would call a mistake that have been meaningful to me. The one time I learned the most. So when I think about when I make career changes, decisions that I learned a lot from and that’s how I ultimately landed here at Gillette Children. What lessons do I learn but not to do as a leader. I wish I could say it was a positive but usually all of the failures I was privy to are part of her helped create with when we fell down on that leadership. Did we set the vision? Did we have the right skills? Did we incentivize our team the right way and provide them the resources they need? And put that all together into an action plan or something that they could see and follow. So did we get a program started on time? Did we lose or break down a program? Things of that nature. It’s really what did we fail as a leader in that’s what brings me through and I could list a lot of examples but I don’t know who is listening and they would say oh she’s talking about because I’ve worked with a lot of people but I have some good ones that anybody ever wants to connect with me offline.

Saul Marquez:
I love that. That’s good. I love it.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
But there’s a lot. There’s been a lot but that comes with it.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. No it’s a good call out. Definitely some some confidentiality there but overall the the understanding that the leader takes takes the blame. And just making sure that you learn from that blame learn from the experience is the way to go. How about one of your proudest experiences that you had so far?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Most recent. I mean working at a place like Gillette when you do program planning and you stick with your vision and you get the right capabilities from the organization, there is nothing better than when you go down to shadow your team and you see a patient walk again for the first time or you watched the faces of their family members who thought we couldn’t but now they are. I mean to watch these little champions come through and behind it there’s business. But it’s good. And the best success is when you see it on the front line and nobody cares all about the strategy we did or all the heavy lifting. It’s merely that their loved one is achieving what they can and it all works right. That only works when you get the outcome you want for your patients and Allison and all that business planning and all that hard work paves the way and you can just take that deep breath and say it was so worth it.

Saul Marquez:
Now that’s so beautiful and you know it’s important work that you guys are up to. And you know I just kind of think back to that time you took us to Barbara where your physician you know said you got to run it yourself. So glad you listened.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Yeah I mean it like I said it’s an honor but it is there is so much good in healthcare. I hope in this day and age with all the headlines and the spin that people remember that we have an incredible healthcare system here locally in Minnesota and across the nation. Let’s look for the good and remind ourselves of all the great things happening every day. We still have a lot to improve on. I don’t negate that. But let’s focus on we get a lot done and we impact a lot of families. And at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

Saul Marquez:
You know Barbara I love that point. I tend to get on my soapbox about the news in general. I think that added a lot of negative they need to sell ads. But I think it’s so true Barb that you just kind of honed in on health care in general and what people see. It’s not all negative people. It just isn’t. And take this inspiration from Barbara and take a step back and think about all the wonderful things that are happening and if you need a good place a start, hit rewind on this interview. There’s definitely a lot of great things happening Barb and I’m glad you mentioned that. Tell us about an exciting project or focus you’re working on today.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
That’s for us it’s always a partnership. Right. How can we the population we service smaller than the norm. And it’s expensive and it’s tough to put the resources together. So we continue every day outside of the frontline work, reach out to systems near and far to say how can we bring Gillette’s doing into your patient and to your providers. And not always in a business construct. Can we just help out so that this effective model of care can be undertaken by war and all hospitals that improve. Right. So we have a lot of business partners not big into contract but let’s just take what we’re doing here and let’s offer it to your patient population through your care system. So that’s about what we’re doing is a whole lot of partnership talks and who’s in with helping improve care for this very special population of kids.

Saul Marquez:
I think that’s wonderful. And listeners a call out to all of you, if you’re looking to make things better if you’re running a practice if you’re running the ship at an institution. At the end here we’ll give you a best way to connect with Barbara so that those opportunities or somebody on her team, those opportunities can be made a reality. So let’s pretend Barbara you and I are building a leadership course on healthcare. It’s what it takes to be successful in the business of medicine and care. The one on one of Barbara Walczyk Joers. I’ve got five questions for you. These are going to be lightning round style so rapid fire followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners. You ready?

Saul Marquez:
All right all right here we go. What’s the best way to improve healthcare outcomes?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Focus on those you’re trying to serve and have a strategy.

Saul Marquez:
What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Lack of critical thinking. You have to connect the dots over the healthcare layer.

Saul Marquez:
How do you stay relevant despite constant change?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Do what you do well, be the best. But make sure somebody validate that you’re the best.

Saul Marquez:
What is one area of focus that drives everything in your organization?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
That is so easy for ours, so that we can serve. The patients.

Saul Marquez:
The patients. Absolutely. And finally what is your number one success habit?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Think it all in every day because I don’t know I don’t. I’ll have to share and no nationally Sure. I don’t have a hobby or a secret day every single day of my work is different. So I just kind to bring in that energy in my habit is when I come in, everything else kind of goes backwards. And that’s all in every day.

Saul Marquez:
And what would you recommend to the listeners as part of the syllabus?

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
It’s an old one. That okay? Michael Porter which in case you haven’t noticed I like his simplicity and putting things out there. I think it was over 10 years ago, Redefining Healthcare. The one about creating value based competition.

Saul Marquez:
Love it.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
You know 10 years plus we’re still tackling these issues. But he talks about focusing on medical conditions and the full cycle of care. And it’s such a great connection to what I’m able to do every day here.

Saul Marquez:
Well it’s one thing to read it and say you read it. It’s another thing to read it and apply it. So kudos for you applying it Barbara. And it’s a great one, it took me a while to get through it. It’s definitely a big one but if you haven’t had a chance Michael Porter’s book Redefining Healthcare is one you should definitely pick up. We’ll have a link to that here in the show notes and also the entire transcript everything you could find on outcomesrocket.health in the search bar just type in Barbara or type in Gillette Children’s, you’ll find the episode that way. Barb this has been fun. I love if you could just share a closing thought. And then the best place where the listeners could get in touch with you.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Oh good Saul is I guess in closing as healthcare keeps changing, in healthcare we all need to focus on what were the best that might be best for patients. Well it’s a lot of us say that we are doing that. I think we just need to be honest with ourselves and if we are then we’re working forward for our patients were advocating for our patients and together all facets of the healthcare industry. We’re working to assure our patients not just at Gillette but in every healthcare system reaches their full potential. So with that people reach out to me by my LinkedIn page or simply email with bjoers@gillettechildrens.com.

Saul Marquez:
Outstanding Barbara. Really appreciate your insights and in the time you spent with us and excited to hear more about what you guys have up to here in 2019. So thanks again and looking forward to staying in touch.

Barbara Walczyk Joers:
Great. Thank you Saul.

Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.

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