By Heather Humelbaugh RT(R), MHA
“Don’t accept a hinckey number that doesn’t pass the ‘ho-ho test.’*”
-Matthew Jones, CRA, RT(R) (CT)
In May of 2014, I was settling in to my new job as director of diagnostic imaging at Tuality Healthcare in Hillsboro, OR. I was new to the job, but not to the facility, as I had previously worked as a radiologic technologist at Tuality’s main campus for 11 years. After completing my Master’s in Healthcare Administration at Pacific University in 2013, I had accepted the position of assistant chief technologist at Portland VA Medical Center. Portland VA Medical Center is an extremely busy hospital, and it was a large adjustment for me both professionally and personally. At the VA I directly supervised and managed 31 technologists for CT and general x-ray. I also led multiple process improvement projects in customer wait time and satisfaction in CT, as well as participating in the selection of replacement CT scanners and x-ray rooms, all of which were past due for replacement. It was also a year for The Joint Commission and the OIG to visit. It was a busy year!
In February of 2014 I learned that the Director’s job at Tuality Healthcare was opening due to a retirement. With just barely a year of management experience under my belt, I hesitated, thinking that my lack of time on the job would preclude my selection, but I submitted my application anyway, deciding that the interview would provide excellent experience towards my goal of eventually obtaining a position as a radiology department director. Three interviews later I was selected to be the new director of diagnostic imaging at Tuality Healthcare.
It’s daunting to shift from technologist to assistant chief, to director, all in the space of a year. This is called a steep learning curve! During my time at the VA I had joined AHRA and discovered a rich resource of management tools, forums, and support. Back at Tuality, it was through an AHRA bulletin that I saw the opportunity to apply for the Partners in Learning program, and as a new director, I eagerly applied. I was selected and matched with Memorial Healthcare in Owosso, MI, a facility quite close to Tuality Healthcare’s size and capacity. I eagerly phoned Matt Jones, manager of diagnostic imaging, PACS and clinical engineering at Memorial (yes, he wears many hats well) and the trip was on! On July 7, 2014 at 9 AM, I found myself in Matt’s office for a week of unforgettable learning.
My goals for the Partners in Learning program were to seek out best practices in managing equipment purchases, service contracts, and software, as well as PACS management – all large dollar, high impact, year over year requirements. As a subset of those goals, I wanted to explore speech recognition, file room, and scheduling concerns, as well as comparing and contrasting personnel and management structures. My CEO was interested in the radiologist relationship side of the equation – speech recognition, marketing, education to referring physicians, and the patient experience. That’s a lot to cover in four business days while still allowing Matt to continue his normal day to day functions. It helped that we communicated prior to those four on site days. I assembled my list of goals and questions, and we had several email exchanges that helped prepare us both for the on site visit.
Our first conversations centered on my goals for the week. Matt shared with me his system for tracking and supporting all radiology equipment as well as his preferences and organization of service contracts. He was able to share with me his system for tracking and documenting employee actions in order to comply with HR requirements and his employee leadership practices. We looked carefully at key performance indicators, metrics, dashboard construction, and reporting practices. We also discussed, in depth, the changing relationship between hospitals and radiologists in the area of the increasingly important customer service satisfaction environment and how to manage that change.
Observing an experienced radiology manager in practice was an invaluable experience for me as a new director. I was able to observe management practices that will assist me in prioritizing my tasks and responsibilities with tools that are proven to be effective, saving significant amounts of time, energy, and resources. It was also validating to find that many of my thoughts and ideas around leadership and management are indeed correct pathways towards effective management of the people and equipment I am accountable for. This experience has been an effective and valuable resource towards my success as a radiology manager, and I want to thank Matthew Jones of Memorial Healthcare for his time, expertise, and newfound friendship.
*The ho-ho test: A determination that an assertion, statement, etc. is not the least bit credible and may even make you laugh out loud when you read it.
“Participating in the Partners in Learning program through the AHRA as a host site was very valuable. Having another imaging department leader in my own department allowed for some great observations and feedback. Heather brought a new set of eyes and often posed the outstanding question of “why?” The questions she asked were insightful, pointed, and often not easy. Explaining the “why” to each of her questions made me put some serious thought into the answers.
I am very grateful to Heather and AHRA for the awesome opportunity to be a host site for the Partners in Learning program. If you’re on the fence about signing on to be a host site, don’t hesitate. It is an outstanding opportunity to learn from another imaging leader and get a fresh perspective on your own world.”
– Matthew Jones, CRA, RT(R)(CT)
Heather Humelbaugh RT(R), MHA is the director of diagnostic imaging at Tuality Healthcare in Hillsboro, OR. She can be reached at Heather.Humelbaugh@tuality.org.