Lindsay Menard, MPH
La Crosse, Wisconsin
As my final weeks of being a Wisconsin Population Health
Service Fellow draw near, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon the past
22 months and recognize how much I have grown and how fortunate I am to have
been part of such compassionate, innovative, and inclusive communities. I want to use this blog post to focus on one
of those communities, the La Crosse County Health Department, by highlighting
one particular project I helped advance, the accreditation process.The accreditation journey has fostered my
professional and personal development during my time as a Wisconsin Population
Health Service Fellow.
The first lesson I learned is that people and
organizations always have room for improvement, and that it is important to
introduce quality improvement efforts in a way that does not threaten staff or
the good work they were already doing. I
framed this concept in many different ways.
For example, when discussing performance management and quality
improvement ideas (Domain
9 in the standards and measures established by PHAB) with public health
nursing staff I highlighted the fact that we are already reaching a large proportion
of the community with seasonal influenza vaccinations, and then asked them to
think about how we could reach even more people and improve upon the structure
of community influenza clinics.
I have also learned to be open to change, to document
change, and to encourage change (even if I am hesitant about it myself). Change does not come easily to most people,
including me. Learning how to maneuver
change, address change resistors, and embrace change has been important
throughout the accreditation process.
We, the La Crosse County Health Department, had to overhaul and develop
new systems. Changing the infrastructure
of an organization is no easy task. It
took time, patience, and various forms of training to get new or changed
systems to “stick.” And as a new employee
and Wisconsin Population Health Service
Fellow, I was essentially charged with testing the status quo. I had to learn to build rapport and earn the
trust of staff. There was a period
during the transition when everyone (including me) had to adjust to the shift
in the organizational structure.
The third lesson I learned was how important communication
is at all levels of an organization, not just at a local health department. It is important for leaders to communicate on
a regular basis with all staff members and it is equally important for leadership
to explicitly reach out to staff for feedback.
Communicating thoughts, ideas, improvements, and questions can be
extremely difficult. Encouraging a safe
environment for all to communicate is essential. Otherwise, trust and morale break down. To
communicate with staff about the new systems, plans, and policies and
procedures (P&Ps) that were created, adopted, and implemented a department
newsletter was created (Figures 1 and 2).
The newsletter highlights the accreditation process, discusses the
twelve domains developed by PHAB, states new changes, and captures health
department news. Through the
accreditation process, I have learned to develop newsletters and frame messages
for staff and the media in a meaningful and concrete way.
Figure 1: Figure 2:
In closing, the accreditation process has increased the
capacity of the La Crosse County Health Department to deliver the ten essential
services AND it has made me a better public health professional. I have increased my knowledge of public
health, fostered many professional skills, learned to manage change, and
recognized the value of communication throughout an organization. I will carry the many lessons and skills I
have learned throughout the Fellowship program with me for the rest of my
career. Fellowship faculty and staff
explain it best, “Through this intensive process, academic health departments
and their UW School of Medicine and Public Health—based partners have developed
a way to take talented and highly motivated early-career professionals and
transform them into confident, emerging leaders, with cutting-edge skills,
competencies, and connections to improve population health outcomes and advance
health equity in Wisconsin and beyond.”[i]
I am proof. I have been transformed.
Ceraso, M., Swain, G.R., Vergeront, J.M., Oliver, T.O., & Remington, P.L.
(2014). Academic Health Departments as Training Sites for Future Public Health
Leaders: A Partnership Model in Wisconsin.
Journal of Public Health
Management and Practice, 20 (3), 324-329.