The University Record, July 6, 1993

Team presentations emphasize impact on daily activities

Included in the Regents’ exploration of the University’s M-Quality initiative at their June meeting were presentations on the activities of three quality improvement teams: LS&A/Employment and Staff Development Quality Improvement Team, Work Safe/Be Well Team and Perscrutari Team in Anesthesiology.

Barbara G. Murphy and Philip A. Smith, co-leaders of the LS&A team, noted that theirs was a cross-functional team, meaning it combines the resources of individuals from different units. The team’s work, described more fully in a June 21 Record article, focuses on the processes involved in hiring staff.

Murphy noted that “there was skepticism at first, but we were committed to giving it a chance.”

The team’s work, Smith said, already has had an impact on team members and the way they conduct business in their own units.

“There’s less ‘shooting from the hip.’ We tend to look at processes with a better eye for improvement, we listen more carefully and we’re better members of groups. In addition, we’re committed to teamwork.”

Sally A. York, area manager, and Thomas J. O’Brien, supervisor, both from Plant Operations, are members of the Work Safe/Be Well team. The group’s work focuses on reducing the cost and number of work-related injuries, which totaled about 300 over the past three years. The team is specifically addressing back injuries.

O’Brien said that the more obvious change for him with respect to M-Quality is scheduled meetings that everyone attends and participates in. “We have managers, foremen and supervisors. All of them recognize the value of teamwork. I’ve seen the enthusiasm grow at our meetings.”

York is the group’s facilitator, a role that includes being an observer, “serving as a coach and, sometimes, a bulldozer,” ensuring that the group follows the seven-step quality process and remains on track. York also meets with the team leader before and after each meeting, serving as a sounding board and providing a sort of “pump-up session.”

According to York, “the team grows in confidence with every meeting and is sure it will make a difference. Skepticism has been replaced by ‘Let’s take a look.’” The members, she noted, “discuss, plan and disagree, but are friends by the end of each meeting.”

York believes that exposure and recognition are key to the success of M-Quality. “We are blazing a new trail. The first team leaders and the teams should be recognized for their accomplishments.”

David W. Learned, clinical assistant professor of anesthesiology, told the Regents he felt it was a “privilege to be involved in M-Quality, and I am still enthusiastic.”

His group focused on the understanding and use by physicians of a gas analyzer that monitors the uptake and distribution of anesthetic vapors in patients.

One goal of the group’s work was to improve medical residents’ knowledge and performance, though he acknowledged that this was difficult to quantify.

The group discovered that many physicians did not use the device, primarily because they were not familiar with it and needed training.

“As practical measures, we provided instruction to faculty members during meetings and to the residents in classes.”

The group’s work also had an unexpected side benefit. In the past, bottles of vapors were purchased, and when someone noticed the supply getting low, “they ordered a bunch more. We had no idea of how much was being used per month. What had been a very loose inventory system,” has now been tightened.

Learned noted that the commitment of department chairs and administrators is extremely important to the success of any quality initiative. He added that the quality approach to work “enables bright people to feel like they are making great contributions.”