JPS Health Network includes a county hospital where everyone – whether they can pay for services or not – gets treated, and "that kind of mission brings in people who really want to do good work," said Chief Technology Officer David Mendenhall.
It hasn't always been that way. Until just a few years ago, the management of the JPS information services (IS) department was outsourced, and there was little internal team spirit.
But over the last five years, Mendenhall said, a new leadership has been put in place, including Mendenhall himself. This has led to an improved work environment for the 156 member IS department, which in addition to a county hospital, also serves 42 clinics.
Another newcomer to JPS is Melinda Costin, vice president and CIO. In large part, she credits President and CEO Robert Earley for the improved outlook.
"He's the kind of guy who sets up a pancake breakfast for the staff and literally flips every pancake for every breakfast," she said, adding that Earley also sends out a personal letter to the staff nearly every week. "That makes you feel good and makes you want to improve even more."
So what does a department-wide change in attitude look like?
For a glimpse of that, Mendenhall and Costin described employee reaction to the decision to enable and encourage telecommuting in response to the department's ongoing logistical challenges. These challenges have resulted in IT staff being divided up among five different buildings.
"We went to a lot of trouble to make it work, creating a whole new tele-working agreement," Costin said. The result? Most of the IS staff declined to take advantage of it, choosing to remain near the patients and their co-workers. They did this, as Mendenhall noted, despite the fact that "some of our people commute up to 75 minutes one way."
While the IS department at JPS does things one would expect of a highly functioning team – every morning, for example, each manager has a team huddle to deliver news ranging from what's happening across the JPS Network to what's happening in any number of specific projects – Mendenhall and Costin pointed to the organization's "VIP Program" as one thing that sets them apart.
The letters stand for "Values I Promote," and the program enables staff members to identify coworkers they think are doing exemplary work – and that others should emulate.
"We try to develop that sense of ownership everyday," Mendenhall said, adding that part of that sense has involved getting the staff to recognize that their IS duties are not like those in the banking or retail sectors.
"If our systems go down, that means a provider isn't able to take care of patients," he said.
The good news for JPS patients now, however, is that when there's a problem at the hospital or any of the organization's 42 clinics, there's no shortage of IS team members willing to jump in and help fix it.