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Brian Stepien
Director, Patient Support Services and Logistics
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Chicago, IL


The Joint Commission does not announce its arrival to inspect a hospital, and at 744-staffed-bed Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, neither does the support services team. Brian Stepien describes how he and top managers of several units—environmental services, facilities and construction, security, materials management, food service, pharmacy, safety and infection control—spend their Friday mornings.

Stepien: We have the entire support services group—eight or 10 people at a director or vice president level—going out, unannounced, to a different area of the hospital. We try to visit three units a week, and we will spend half an hour to 45 minutes per unit.

We ask the manager of the unit or his or her delegate to go with us. We say, “OK, you’ve got everybody here. What can be fixed?”

The manager of each area of the hospital can issue work requests. If we’re up on a unit and there’s a safety concern, that task will go electronically straight to the nurse manager of that area to resolve that issue.

You start to really know what to look for. I can go into a room and know a little bit about pharmacy and a little bit about food service or other things that I don’t cover, and vice versa. It creates a new set of eyes and ears for everybody. The accountability and the transparency have been just tremendously increased.

—Lola Butcher