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A Dallas hospital uses its ongoing leadership development program to engage good employees and weed out bad ones.

In 2000, Medical City Dallas Hospital was in trouble. Its charity care and bad debt had seen double-digit growth, there was a nursing shortage, and the turnover rate was 38%. Many hospital leaders facing similar economic pressures would have chosen to scale back seemingly nice-to-have employee development programs to save resources.

Not Britt Berrett, Medical City's president and chief executive officer.

"We concluded that the only way the organization would achieve success was through leadership," Berrett says, which is why he and his executive team launched a completely new leadership development program—which Berrett pledged $500,000 to fund.

Although the program didn't end up costing the 510-staffed-bed hospital that much money, Berrett says, his willingness to earmark limited resources to a new program sent the message that the hospital was serious about developing good leaders.

Rather than use one of the many available readymade leadership programs, Medical City's executive team created a customized leadership development program—Medical City Dallas University (MCDU) —with Berrett serving as chancellor.

MCDU is a monthly four-hour leadership training program attended by the CEO and mandatory for all 80 Medical City managers and directors. Each session covers topics that Berrett and his team have determined are essential to leadership, including conflict resolution, communication, and measuring productivity. The classes are taught by national speakers, local leaders, and hospital executives.

Medical City's leaders then rolled out a monthly leadership program for supervisors—the next level down from managers and directors.

"We determined that the leadership training that we were providing at MCDU was invaluable, but it needed to penetrate throughout the organization," Berrett says.

The supervisor program has increased employee communication and engagement, Berrett says, and because the training sessions are optional, they help reveal which employees are really committed to moving up within the organization.

Today, Medical City Dallas' turnover rate is about 13%. "The whiners, the losers, and the dorks—they don't want to work with us, and we don't want to work with them."

Molly Rowe

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