IACH reaches pinnacle of Army safety

Irwin Army Community Hospital is the second hospital in Regional Health Command – Central (Provisional), and one of 30 from 120 hospitals military-wide, to earn the Army Star Strong flag.
Irwin Army Community Hospital is the second hospital in Regional Health Command – Central (Provisional), and one of 30 from 120 hospitals military-wide, to earn the Army Star Strong flag.

Irwin Army Community Hospital Irwin Army Community Hospital earned the distinguished Army Safety and Occupational Health Star Strong flag award and was recognized for its commitment to safety during a ceremony June 22.

Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Tempel, Jr., Commanding General, Regional Health Command – Central (Provisional) presented the award to IACH leaders and staff.

“To earn this recognition shows a commitment to safety,” said Tempel. “Safety is not about checking a box or a monthly briefing; it’s a culture change. This says you have a world class health system and that safety is part of your culture.”

IACH is the second hospital in RHC-C, and one of 30 from 120 hospitals military-wide to earn the Army Star Strong flag.

“To get certified and earn this star says a tremendous amount about the IACH leadership and how much they care about the people they serve,” he said.

The Army Star Strong flag recognizes organizations that go beyond the standard set for patient and organizational safety. Attaining the certification involves a three-year journey of collaboration, commitment and change for every member of the organization. There are 243 task specific elements of performance that must be understood and modeled at every level.

“The key to earning star status is keeping safety at the forefront of everything we do. Staff must remain accountable to each other, leaders provide support and direction for safety performance and outcomes,” said Ron Knight, IACH Safety & Occupational Health Manager. “Initial achievement momentum can be easily lost; leaders and staff must truly buy into the vision to continually energize it.”

Getting everyone in the organization to recognize unsafe conditions and then personally take action to correct the hazard is only part of changing the culture. Actively managing even the smallest risks must become second nature to all staff. That is the ultimate success. That’s what the flag indicates.

“From top to bottom, the organization must continually renew its efforts to go beyond the minimum standard to maintain a culture of safety. We no longer accept the old adage of ‘it’s someone else’s job.’ IACH staff take it upon themselves to provide a safe working environment, promote safety, reduce workplace injuries and hold each other accountable for safety performance,” said Knight.


Creating a Circle of Support for Moms-to-Be

By Jorge Gomez

IACH Public Affairs Office

This story is the first in a series that chronicles the experience of an IACH patient as she prepares for delivery.

Amanda Shumaker is 700 miles away from the nearest family member. Yet the mom-to-be said, “I still don’t feel like I’m doing this alone.”

As part of Group Prenatal Care at Irwin Army Community Hospital, Shumaker meets monthly with other women who are at the same stage of pregnancy. Instead of an individual prenatal appointment, she sits in a circle with others who share the same mix of happiness and worry.

At the start of the two-hour meeting moms-to-be take turns going behind a curtain for “tummy time.” After bellies get measured and fetal heart rates checked a discussion begins.

It’s not a class. It’s a group of pregnant women together on a journey with providers investing in their well-being and the health of their babies.

“The concept of Group Prenatal Care is to provide education primarily to first time parents,” said Mandy DeDonder, an IACH registered nurse and Group facilitator. “Group allows them the opportunity to meet other couples who will be delivering during the same timeframe.”

Shumaker said she likes the freedom of asking anything no matter how weird it might sound.

“Your body just goes through weird stuff and you get to talk about it with others. Someone always says, ‘I’ve had that happen,’” said Shumaker.

They learn from the questions others ask such as whether it’s safe to travel, go swimming or see a chiropractor. The women spend so much time hearing each other they build enough trust to tackle subjects providers can’t easily address in an office visit, said DeDonder.

Nor can they abbreviate an interactive education of 1,440 Group minutes into 200 minutes of individual appointments. The cumulative time spent in Group towers over individual appointments.

“Regardless of the format all patients have their questions answered, but Group has the advantage of learning things you wouldn’t think to ask,” said DeDonder. “They form friendships, a meaningful circle of support, and many times these relationships carry on beyond Group.”

Shumaker said moving around in the Army has taken her far from home but in Group she has met many in the same situation.

“I love the camaraderie, it’s a really neat community and being with people who know your story makes you feel at home,” Shumaker said.

During February’s meeting, the Group learned exercises to strengthen their core muscles as alternatives to sit-ups.

“I just have to lift my knee and hold it for 10 seconds a few times. It’s so easy that you can do it anywhere like when you’re watching TV,” said Shumaker.

Unlike an exam room, Group uses a large space where facilitators and patients can perform stretches and exercises. Even a physical therapist is invited to thoroughly engage them on topics specific to pregnant women.

Group Prenatal Care is encouraged for all first time moms but it may not work for everyone. Some women prefer privacy or just can’t carve out two hours for an office visit. For those open to the format, Group offers an intimate and in-depth education, said DeDonder.

That education is having positive results. DeDonder tracks outcomes with all patients who go through Group.

“The statistics show less preterm labor, less inductions and higher rates of successful breastfeeding,” said DeDonder.

For Shumaker making a home away from home also counts as Group success.

Outstepping Your Colleagues

Liz Harrell is determined to outstep her rival who bears the same first name Lizzie Gutierrez. Since Irwin Army Community Hospital launched an internal Performance Triad challenge in October that happened only once.

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Staff from the OB/GYN clinic at Irwin Army Community Hospital can sometimes be seen taking walks around the hospital during lunch. As part of the Performance Triad challenge, they each strive to reach 10,000 steps per day.

“I ran three miles in the morning and walked up a hill during lunch. It felt good to beat Lizzie,” Harrell said. “And that’s probably the only way I can outstep her.”

Both Harrell and Gutierrez are staff nurses in the OB/GYN Clinic at Irwin Army Community Hospital. Their friendly competition grew into a movement within the clinic’s staff who wanted in on the excitement. By November the count had grown to 13 participants.

Although it was occasioned by an inner hospital program, what made the rivalry possible was the distribution of a wearable activity tracker. The device tracks the wearer’s activity, exercise, nutrition (when the wearer manually inputs the data) and sleep. Users can sync or upload their stats to an online site to let friends see how well they are doing at a given time.

“Our goal throughout this challenge has been to encourage our hospital staff to learn more about the Performance Triad and experience the positive effects from it,” said Lt. Col. Amanda Forristal, Deputy Commander for Surgical Services. “As medical personnel we often advise patients to be active, eat healthy and get more sleep. What better way is there to educate patients than by exemplifying?”

The Performance Triad is an Army Medicine campaign designed to improve readiness and resilience among Soldiers. But program has spread to civilian staff and families who value health and optimal performance. It focuses on three core principles: sleep, activity and nutrition. A hospital committee designated the months of October, November and December respectively for each core event. Depending on the month, classes were provided to educate staff on the intricacies of sleep, activity or nutrition.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the program had a slow start in gaining traction among staff but became more popular by mid November, said Forristal.

“More people started asking questions about the events we had listed. They asked if we would offer makeup classes on sleep or if more wearable activity trackers would be available,” she said.

Based on the popularity of the program the committee launched a second edition starting in February. New events for each month have been such as drinking the right amount of water for seven days, eating a meal that one would typically skip, or maintaining consistent sleep and wake times.

This second edition will give clinicians like Harrell and Gutierrez another opportunity to compete for the greatest number of steps.

Harrell was already active before the hospital launched the Performance Triad initiative.

But using a wearable device helped quantify her activity throughout the day. Syncing her steps online gave it a social component. An app allows Harrell and others to view each other steps, feeding a healthy competitiveness among staff with similar responsibilities in the same work environment.

It takes about 10,000 steps for the average person to log about five miles. At that point the device tingles to congratulate the wearer.

“It sounds like a lot but you can cover that distance in the course of an average day without even trying, especially if you have stairs like here in the hospital,” Gutierrez said. “Or a long hallway to walk up and down. Every little bit helps.”

Sometimes Gutierrez and Harrell corral the clinic staff during lunch to walk with them around the hospital building. It has the effect of getting those extra steps needed to reach one’s daily goal.

But in Gutierrez and Harrell’s world, getting from point A to point B has turned into a competition for who can lengthen the distance.

Harrell said it isn’t easy keeping up with Gutierrez who tends to achieve 7k steps before 9 a.m. But that’s a good thing.

“She keeps me on my toes,” Harrell said.