2016-03-03 / Front Page

Newport Hospital President: 'It's a Gem'

By Betsy Sherman Walker

Newport Hospital President Crista Durand in one of the rooms in the recently updated Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center. 
(Photo by Jen Carter) Newport Hospital President Crista Durand in one of the rooms in the recently updated Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center. (Photo by Jen Carter) On the day last December when news broke that Newport Hospital had not fared well on a nationally-mandated report card on patient safety, hospital President Crista Durand says she had known it was coming.

The information was based on the Affordable Care Act-mandated Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC) Reduction Program survey. Adding insult to injury, of the six other Rhode Island hospitals, Newport’s score was the lowest. According to Durand, the results were based on three years of data that began with the passage in 2010 of the ACA. While the report remains a presence to be reckoned with, and she is keeping her eagle eye on it—it is all from her rearview mirror.

Durand’s focus in the last 18 months has been on the road ahead.

Today, visitors to the lobby of Newport Hospital are greeted by a large, free-standing banner proclaiming that Newport and Miriam hospitals, two of Rhode Island’s Lifespan facilities, have been named “Best Regional Hospitals 2015-2016” by U.S. News & World Report.

Besides the Best Regional Hospital award, in 2015 the rehabilitation program received the 2015 Press Ganey (a national health care watchdog and consulting firm) Guardian of Excellence Award for outstanding patient experience, for which a hospital needs to score in the 95th percentile for four consecutive quarters. The Comprehensive Cancer Center, which has invited the attention of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for a possible partnership, has received national accreditation from the Commission on Cancer and has been ranked among the top 100 hospitals for oncology. There is also the revamped Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center, the recent opening of the Lifespan Lyme Disease Center, and the ongoing Community Lecture Series.

“I see myself as a results-driven, high-performing visionary,” she says, when asked about her management style and if she sees herself as a change agent. “That’s why I was brought in. There were 21 candidates for the job. It was a rigorous process,” she adds, “and they put me through the ringer.”

Durand began her tenure in August of 2014, bringing with her a list of goals and priorities. One of the first items to make it from agenda into practice was “Project Refresh,” requiring that “rooms [be] cleaned twice a day to minimize infection and enhance the patient experience.”

Beyond that: more observant bedside care; more transparency among the staff; more efficient emergency room care; better access for members of the community to primary care physicians; heightened awareness of and prevention of childhood obesity; behavioral health programs; comprehensive cancer care; a broader commitment to women’s health (“a comprehensive care continuum”); and even better hospital food.

She has also broadened her professional staff, with a new chief of nursing, directors of patient experience and patient safety, and one oncologist already on board with a second hire expected in the fall.

Other transformational priorities include the fact that the hospital has, in the past year, added more than 20 new physicians and nurse practioners to the area, “from Tiverton to Jamestown.” The ER staff has brought its care time down to meet the industry’s “door-to-provider” window (less than 30 minutes) and overall visit time (less than three hours). There is also a group of “fantastic pediatricians,” who, with the support of the Prince Foundation and collaboration with Bike Newport, Island Moving Company, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame, have enabled the hospital to more aggressively address childhood obesity.

In all of this, the common denominator, the necessary yin to the yang of quality care, is communication.

Durand came to Newport Hospital after five years as vice president of strategic planning, marketing and business development at New London’s Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. At her hiring, Lifespan President Timothy Babineau spoke of her “strong financial background, paired with a focus on innovation [and] transformation.”

A best practice she brought from L+M is the “Daily Safety Huddle” at 11:30 a.m. sharp, Monday through Friday, with her management team. The purpose: to create “situational awareness, which helps the staff identify and mitigate any potential issues. It’s 15 minutes of stand-up self-assessment,” she explains. “When there’s a good catch, we acknowledge the person who earned it.” She feels it caught the attention of Press Ganey and is the thing she “is proudest of.”

She clearly has, as Babineau said, “a passionate commitment to community hospitals.” A native of Pomfret, Conn., Durand is no stranger to Newport, having graduated from Salve Regina in 1992 with a degree in financial management before earning her MBA from Nichols College in Dudley, Mass. She never severed her ties with Newport, and saw the opportunity at the hospital as a chance to have a “meaningful and impactful relationship” with a community she and her husband, Stephen, “hold near and dear.”

At the end of the interview, when asked about her favorite spot in the hospital, Durand said it is the spacious, yet somehow intimate, atrium. “It’s a beautiful presence. I feel that you can stand in there and embrace the culture and history of the community.”

When asked what she particularly likes about her job, she said, “I work with one of the best high-performance teams I’ve built so far.” She added, “They are fantastic – the caliber of the people and the unwavering support of the donor community – I have never seen anything like it in my career.”

She goes quiet for a second, and then, gathering up what is needed so she can join her staff for the Daily Huddle, she shared one last thought. “This hospital,” she says, “is a little gem.”

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