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Dr. Pate’s Prescription for Change

St. Luke’s Health System’s Journey to Transform Health Care

The Heart of St. Luke’s

By Dave McFadyen, News and Community
January 17, 2017

St. Luke’s has been going through a tremendous amount of change in recent years, and it has been important to keep in mind that we are designing the health system that we would want for ourselves and our families, as it is very statistically likely that most of us will have need of it.

Of course, our culture has evolved over these years, but what has not changed is the heart of St. Luke’s – our people and their compassion.

Dave McFadyen is the administrator for St. Luke’s Boise. This is his first guest blogger appearance, and his story is riveting – you won’t want to miss it. It is stories like Dave’s that remind me each and every day how important our work is and how it is impacting lives.

- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.

Dave McFadyen

The start of a new year is one of my favorite times of the year. The new year brings with it the opportunity to reflect, celebrate successes and look forward. I am once again inspired and humbled to work with so many incredible, caring individuals, and I am looking forward to our shared achievements as we move into our 2020 strategic plan.

This past year, I have been reminded of the heart of St. Luke’s, and the sacred work we are privileged to do each and every day. As a non-clinician, working in leadership and not having daily interaction with patients, I can feel a bit removed from the clinical care occurring just down the hall. Then there are those moments, occurring through the year, that instantly reconnect me with the mission we carry out every day.  

For me, that element of sacred work was perfectly expressed at our recent Service Awards Banquet when Diana Fahrenbruck, one of our 35-year honorees, said, “While so much has changed over the years, new hospital wings, renovations, new ways to care for patients, paper to electronic records, one thing has never changed: the inside of St. Luke’s, the heart of who we are and what we do.”

The heart of St. Luke’s is our people and the care they provide for our community every day, and I saw just how meaningful that is during the implementation of our new myStLuke’s common electronic health records system in recent months.

It was the most significant body of work experienced to date by our young health system, and there were challenges requiring immediate intervention, but it was the reaction to these challenges that demonstrated the best in the St. Luke’s culture. Our teams united around the common purpose of implementation, and despite the stress and exhaustion of the moment, everyone was united, enthusiastic and striving for excellence. I have never been so proud of our organization.

Just a few weeks after our myStLuke’s Go Live, I personally experienced the heart of St. Luke’s during my own family’s health scare. 

My wife and I noticed our 10-year-old daughter had a lump on her neck, growing at an alarming rate. She was initially treated with antibiotics in the hopes it was a minor infection. 

The first treatment was not successful and an ultrasound was performed. Results of that test quickly changed the possible cause of the lump from a fairly minor infection or thyroglossal duct cyst to two spots on her lymph node. After 28 days of antibiotics, the lump remained and had continued to increase in size.

The possibility of a lymphoma diagnosis seemed overwhelming. The anxiety of not knowing how to help, and the concerned look on providers’ faces, compounded the fear and worry. It was obvious that surgery was the only option. 

One night just before the surgery, my daughter asked, "Mom, am I going to turn into one of those miracles from heaven?" My wife gasped for air. Those words penetrated our hearts.

I cannot describe how supportive St. Luke’s people were through this very frightening time. Physician assistant William Jensen was extremely personable and made my daughter feel comfortable during clinic visits. He was compassionate, and connected with my wife and me over experiences as a parent.

“William was strong for me when I felt unsure,” my wife later told me. “He genuinely answered all my motherly questions and assured me that Gracie would be in good hands.” 

Dr. Jacob Robison was similarly sympathetic and valued our concern. His confidence and knowledge made us feel secure. 

The day of surgery finally came and with it, the answer we desperately needed. Surgery was expected to take about 30 minutes. Dr. Robison called us from the OR, letting my wife know that the surgery was going well and that our daughter was doing great but that surgery was taking longer than expected; it was not a lymph node, but was in fact a thyroglossal duct cyst.  Christmas came early for our family, and our daughter will be OK, with no lasting health concerns. 

The unseen culture, the heart of St. Luke’s, can only be experienced when you or your loved one needs to be cared for. That call from Dr. Robison in the operating room was one of the single most caring things he could have done for our family, reducing stress and creating hope.

And every day, in their ways, St. Luke’s people do just that. At the awards banquet, I had an opportunity to honor several of our employees celebrating 40 years of service at St. Luke’s. And like William Jensen and Dr. Robison, George Hage, Kim Moerles and Ruth Preminger are examples of what it means to be the heart of St. Luke’s. 

George is an occupational therapist who makes home visits on his own time to help patients transition from St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital to home after a debilitating injury. 

Kim is a neonatal intensive care nurse. Here’s how the mother of two tiny patients has described her: “Kim is not only the hardest worker I know, but she is the kindest, most caring person I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She always made sure I was doing OK and gave me encouragement and motivation each day. She would always lift me up when I was feeling down or frustrated. Kim not only shows love to my twins, but to me as well …” 

Ruth is also a neonatal intensive care nurse, and personifies the word “nurture.” She is keenly sensitive to the importance of nurturing families in preparing them to take their infants home.

Diana Fahrenbruck, William Jensen, Dr. Robison, George Hage, Kim Moerles, Ruth Preminger and so many more share that heart of St. Luke’s with our patients every day, and while I’m very proud of St. Luke’s reputation for care, having recently experienced our care as the parent of a patient, I am grateful beyond measure.

I’m now looking forward into 2017 and beyond. In the months ahead, St. Luke’s will share exciting plans around our Strategy 2020, and I am confident in our ability to navigate the exciting times ahead, because the heart of St. Luke’s is strong.

About The Author

Dave McFadyen is the vice president for Population Health for St. Luke’s, based in Boise, Idaho.