How Do I Know?

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By Jonathan Sanders, RT

One of my biggest fears as the director of imaging at an isolated, rural Arizona hospital is this: What if the rest of the radiology world has moved on to bigger and better things and I don’t even know that those bigger and better things exist? AHRA’s Partners in Learning program helped me find my answer.

My trip took me to Lake Health in Willoughby, Ohio. There I experienced first-hand the expertise and kindness of Diane Weber and her wonderful staff (Joyce, Kelly, Michelle, Diane, Judy, Jim, Marie, Lisa, and others). I have learned several priceless tips that will benefit my hospital and my community for years to come.

One of the primary things I noticed during my visit was the genuine compassion of the radiology staff. They used the same AIDET tools and service recovery options that I have learned about over the years, but something was different. I got a glimpse into that difference when Jim, a CT tech, told me that he used those tools because the patients that he takes care of deserve the best care possible and that was the best type of service that he knew how to offer. It was a paradigm shift for me to see how scripted words really can have genuine meaning when they come from a genuine heart. I finally understood! It solidified my understanding when around the same moment, Kelly, one of the schedulers, walked by carrying a beautiful fruit bouquet that a patient had delivered in appreciation for genuine care that exceeded expectations. I could tell by the tear in Kelly’s eye that her patients are more than just a job. I got that same genuine sense from all the others that I visited with.

Another thing I noticed as I took a tour of Diane’s department were the sticky notes on several office walls. Michelle, one of the department’s PACS and computer gurus, explained that the sticky notes were tools to make things better. Staff would put up sticky notes for each step of a process, and then in the days following, workers would use different colored sticky notes to post ideas for improvement or identify potential problems. I had heard of this lean process before, but to see it in action and to hear of the process improvements that have come of it was astonishing. I could see first-hand how this process of improvement has made the Lake Health imaging department great. Judging by the amount of sticky notes on the walls, the department is going to get even better in the future. Now that I am back home, my office wall is covered with multi-colored sticky notes. So far, I like the results.

I felt Diane Weber’s wisdom, passion, and compassion as she asked me several “How do you know” questions. How do you know your patients and staff are safe? How do you know you are following the best processes? How do you know your hospital is getting paid for what you do? How do you know you are not using too much radiation? How do you know your staff is properly trained? How do you know what your patient experience is like? How do you know if you haven’t done the homework and haven’t looked at every aspect of your processes?

Thanks to Partners in Learning, I can rest assured that the radiology world is not going to leave my hospital and my community behind. How do I know? Because I am going to do my homework and look at every aspect of my processes. When I get that done; I am going to do it again. I may have a great department now, but judging from the post-it notes on my wall it is going to be even better. Just like Lake Health, we are taking care of our family, friends, and neighbors, and they deserve the best.

Jonathan Sanders, RT is the director of imaging at Mt Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford, AZ. He can be reached at

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