Strong for Surgery's success is the result of many engaged and dedicated people, but if we had to celebrate just one individual, Implementation Coordinator Wendy Klamp takes the cake. Wendy has been with Strong for Surgery since the very beginning and has spent the last three years working tirelessly in hospitals and clinics around the Northwest helping staff implement the program into clinical workflow. In this blog post, Wendy reflects on her experience and shares her insight into what it takes to successfully implement a quality improvement program in diverse healthcare settings.
Three years have gone by so fast! It has been such a privilege to do this work. When we started, I had so much trepidation, because it seemed like such an impossibly steep hill to climb. In the first year we had to create a public health campaign around pre-operative risk optimization, recruit and train five pilot sites, and prove that surgeons and staff would join our efforts voluntarily. That was a tall order! If I had known that three years later we would have engaged more than forty health systems, hospitals, and surgeon’s offices, I probably would have fainted!
I have learned that surgeons in Washington State and Oregon are passionately committed to improving patient care and incredibly generous with their time and support. Hospital leadership and clinic staff have been willing to go out on a limb to support us. Healthcare systems have built Strong for Surgery into their strategic plans. We have joined other great local and state organizations (WSHA, Qualis, and WSAND to name a few) to partner for our common interests. Who knew that so many people would get up for a 6:30 AM conference call every month?
I’ve also learned that every Strong for Surgery site is different and unique. This is not a one size fits all proposition. Some sites took a day to implement and others months or years. What matters is that in the end they all have built successful programs that meet their patients' needs. It can be hard to be patient with the pace. (If you know me, you understand why this is a challenge for me!) Now I realize that lasting change can take time, but it is worth it in the end. We’ve encountered every possible barrier and found a way to overcome it.
There are so many people who have helped and should be thanked publically. If I listed them all, it would take pages and pages. Many wonderful relationships have grown out of this that I will always treasure. Traveling from Bellingham to Portland and Port Townsend to Spokane has been so much fun! It’s not all work—I can tell you where to get the best cupcake in the state and which hospital gift shops have the best Christmas decorations! I’ve done planes, trains, and automobiles and even ferries to get to sites, but there was always a warm welcome waiting for me. I’ve had meetings in board rooms, auditoriums, coffee shops, subterranean basements, and the occasional parking lot.
We’ve checklisted over 6,000 patients at last count. I am really proud of that. Some of those folks are my friends, neighbors, and family members. When we started, the complication rate for colorectal surgery was around 10%. Now it’s a lot lower. I like to think about that and hope that in some small way I’ve made a contribution.