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Tending to Hospital Employees After the Joplin Tornado

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 10, 2011

HLM: You’ve found work for about 95% of your St. John’s employees. Are you surprised by the success?

Britton: “I was pleased. We knew it would be a big challenge. It sounded daunting. I am a firm believer that you have to have big goals and dream a little, especially in moments like this that are crises situations. You can’t just accept it. You have got to get busy and work your way through it. So, giving people big goals like we did was important in the recovery, in the community, and in the professional recovery as well. Because you’ve lost everything, the place that you went to work every day and socialized with 2,200 people is gone. You have to have a focus and a way to bring yourself back to a new reality. Big goals that seem audacious or daunting are just what it takes.”

HLM: How has this affected employee engagement at St. John’s?

Britton: “It’s off the charts. They’re actively participating in designing the new hospital, and their work in the temporary facility is extraordinary. All the indicators show they are a very engaged workforce and very appreciative of what has been done to help them through this.”

HLM: Mercy has committed about $950 million towards the rebuilding effort in Joplin that will include a new 327-bed hospital. Did you have any concerns about the level of the investment in such uncertain economic times?

Britton: “I have had people say to me, ‘Those were terrible business decisions. Were you worried about your job? What did the board think about that?’ The short answer is if I had gone back to the board and said, ‘Let’s take the insurance money and run,’ that would have been a termination reason right there. Because we did the right thing, I never worried that the board would view it as a bad business decision. I knew they would view it as the right thing to do, and that is exactly what they did.”

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