Rebuilding trust: VCH president and CEO addresses physicians’ concerns

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“We have to prove ourselves and earn back trust.”

Those comments came from VCH President and CEO Mary Ackenhusen when she was the guest at the Vancouver Physician Staff Association’s (VPSA) October Breakfast with Leaders session held at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. Ms. Ackenhusen noted it’s challenging to engage physicians given their schedules and also acknowledged that VCH leadership needs to be more mindful of an entrenched belief that there is no point in investing time if your voice is not listened to. She addressed a survey that was the genesis of myVCH, the health authority’s transformation to become one collective health care team that delivers an exceptional care experience for all.

“That survey indicated that we could be doing a lot better; it was a wake-up call,” she said. “We have a workforce that is passionate about what they do and patient care, but not about coming together. What struck me most was 50 per cent of staff and physicians think VCH leaders don’t care about them. This sense has developed over decades and is not where we want to be. Another issue that stood out for me was 50 per cent don’t know what VCH’s vision is and don’t find our values meaningful.”

Institutional values

Based on employee input, VCH is moving towards becoming a compassionate, results-oriented, learning organization.

“We are trying to signal that we are a different place; we are trying to be less bureaucratic and hierarchical, and for employees to feel empowered,” said Ms. Ackenhusen, while hinting that new training courses are in the works.

Engaging with physicians: Start with listening and walk the talk

“We are passionate about what we do and we care about our patients,” said Dr. Jennifer Yao, Head, Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and GF Strong Medical Site Lead. “However, our feedback and suggestions to VCH leaders in the past have sometimes met with resistance, as if our input was not credible.”

“The reality is that if you don’t care for your own staff—be it nurses, physicians, allied health providers, etc.—there can be no clinical care,” suggested VPSA Co-chair Dr. Lyne Filiatrault. “Physicians won’t re-engage with leadership until they see change and trust is re-established.”

“We have a lot of work to do still; things won’t change overnight,” said Ms. Ackenhusen. “We’re worried about filling vacancies. We need to make VCH a great employer with a great working environment. Cultural change is hard and takes lots of work and many years. But we know we need to improve how we show up as an organization. To do our best we need to become a different type of organization: one that values people. That’s what myVCH is all about.”

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