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Boise State Alumni Affecting Change at St. Luke’s

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 10:51 am / June 2, 2014


With a number of considerable challenges and transitions facing the health care industry, including the Affordable Health Care Act, more people than ever before are seeking healthcare and hospitals are ramping up efforts to improve care and lower costs. In the center of that charge at St. Luke’s Health System in Boise are a cadre of Boise State alumni working as learning and development solutions analysts in the health system’s Center for Learning and Development (CLD).

All but one of the seven staff members are graduates of Boise State’s Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) master’s program. The program provides students with the tools needed to improve workplace performance and sharpen desired outcomes. The other team member received her undergraduate degree at Boise State before going on to earn a graduate degree from the University of Idaho.

CDL Senior Director Trevor Walker joined St. Luke’s in 2011. After a short time on the job identifying needs within the organization and what direction CEO and President Dr. David Pate wanted to go, he had a clear vision for the center — to become a national leader in health care workforce performance.

But first, St. Luke’s needed to identify how they and their health care partners could share infrastructure and leadership resources to improve collaboration between facilities, doctors and patients, a plan that also held the promise of increased efficiencies.

“Here at St. Luke’s I have the support of executives to build a team of human performance professionals who are changing the game in learning and development,” Walker said. “They are forcing our organization to focus not on how many people we can train, but rather on the value of any learning and development intervention we introduce to ensure we are maximizing our investment in our people.”

Walker’s immediate challenge was facilitating that vision with an instructional design staff of only two — Machel Sandfort, who has been with St. Luke’s for 27 years, and Boise State OPWL graduate Joann Swanson.

Walker and St. Luke’s Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Maureen O’Keeffe started by identifying and visiting model health care systems in the United States and mapping out a plan to transform St. Luke’s from a hospital with a few satellite health care facilities dotted throughout the area to a regional healthcare system.

Back: Charity Arthur, Brian Thompson, Billy Hamilton-Vail, Joann Swanson. Middle: Theresa Brittain, Machel Sandfort, Pam Twilegar. Front: DeAnn Allen, Allison Sesnon

Back: Charity Arthur, Brian Thompson, Billy Hamilton-Vail, Joann Swanson. Middle: Theresa Brittain, Machel Sandfort, Pam Twilegar. Front: DeAnn Allen, Allison Sesnon

After hiring OPWL graduate DeAnn Allen, Walker brought OPWL graduate Brian Thompson on board as a performance improvement professional.

Effecting the changes to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding organization at an even faster pace required Thompson to quickly demonstrate the value of a systematic and systemic approach. First, the team transitioned their roles from being instructional designers to learning and development solutions analysts, a job that more fully describes how every opportunity must be viewed systemically.

One of the team’s first projects was an IT system initiative affecting multiple processes. Its implementation was causing resistance among health system professionals. It also was affecting the corporate culture and creating resistance to the change on that level.

Making the impact he needed in order to get a seat at the leadership table was going to require additional team members. OPWL graduates Charity Arthur and Allison Sesnon, as well as OPWL student Billy Hamilton-Vail, were brought on board and began supporting the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project. The goal was to bring all the health system’s partners under one IT system that would result in the project goals of standardization, integration and optimization.

Effective implementation of this system is critical because it is an integral mechanism for reimbursement for services and management of human capital, and is foundational to budgeting and finances. If that system is broken, costs increase and inefficiencies continue. Currently, the team is on track for a January 2015 implementation.

Additionally, the team was asked to support another important strategic initiative for the health system, which is to prepare St. Luke’s providers for a major change in clinical documentation standards. To meet that need, they hired OPWL student Theresa Brittain.

The St. Luke’s Center for Learning and Development celebrated its one-year anniversary on Feb. 1, and Walker and Thompson report that Health System executives now consult the CLD early on for input on how to effectively implement operational change and leaner processes.

“St. Luke’s simply could not be successful without the investments we have made in our administrative and physician leaders made with the expert guidance of our Center for Learning and Development professionals,” said Pate.

“The quality of Boise State’s nationally top ranked Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning master’s program has provided us with the leaders that we need to create this learning environment and prepare and equip our formal and informal leaders of today and for our future. Our relationship is a winning recipe – two of the nation’s top ranked institutions collaborating to solve one of America’s most vexing problems.”