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Trickle-down Effect: Saint Joseph's RN Finds Staff, Patient Satisfaction is Key

February 27, 2009
Trickle-down effect: St. Joseph’s RN finds staff, patient satisfaction is key -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- by Mike Lee Staff Writer Wendy Rockey, RN, has spent exactly half of her 16-year nursing career managing others. But it was only barely a month ago when she was finally convinced to trade in her scrubs full time. "I never had a dry cleaning bill before," said Rockey, the new director of clinical operations for the cardiac and vascular institute at Exempla St. Joseph’s Hospital. By all accounts, it was time for Rockey to step into her new role. She was recently named a finalist in the Management Category of NurseWeek Magazine’s Nursing Excellence Awards and co-workers say she’s a joy to work for. "These guys, it’s a team I’ve not encountered before," Rockey said. "We had no voluntary RN turnover for two years which is completely unheard of in nursing right now. That’s sort of my thing, staff and physician satisfaction and just making the team work to the point where they want the good outcomes. "The clinical outcomes on this unit are awesome, the patient satisfaction is great, but to me it all trickles down from staff and physician satisfaction." Rockey’s title has changed since being nominated for the award. She previously served as a clinical manager of a cardiac telemetry unit. At the end of the year she became the clinical director, over her former unit and a few others. Now, she’s getting acquainted with the role in one of Denver’s most prestigious heart hospitals. "It sounds really important," Rockey says with a giggle. "It’s actually over the unit I had been managing, as well as another cardiac unit and some other cardiac areas like the cath lab and cardiac diagnostic areas." Rockey was nominated by the chief operating officer at St. Joseph’s. That nomination was followed by a sea of recommendations within the hospital. "For me it was a very unexpected honor. I’m very humbled by it," she said. "The team I manage is so great, I just give all the credit to them. They do such a good job I feel like they make me look good everyday." Rockey moved to St. Joseph’s four years ago. In looking for a job she found former employees and a former boss who had found a home. She even had a former employee call her up and ask her to be her boss once again. "It’s a great place to work. I love it," Rockey said. Now her days are spent away from the bedside and learning how things work. "Now it’s just figuring out what I can do good but on a bigger scope," Rockey said. "St. Joseph’s is great. I’ve never seen this with any other hospital. They have a really strong leadership development program. I feel like I’ve excelled just in the four years I’ve been here compared to the places I’ve been before." She’s currently on track to get her master’s and even though she’s traded in her scrubs for pant suits she still manages to find her to way back to patients. "I’m the expert IV starter so I start IVs and I help out anytime needed," she says. "I have a lab coat in my office so I can always throw that on." Rockey credits others with showing her to the role she has now. "Someone saw something in me," Rockey said. "My first management job was someone saying ‘I think you’ll be good at this. Try it.’ And I loved it. "Making a team great is my passion. I like empowering the staff and creating an environment where they make the decisions and are involved in every decision we make." She can’t imagine not being a nurse and serving in the role she does right now. "Oh, my gosh. I think it’s very valuable. I don’t think you have to be an expert to be a leader, but I think knowing when issues come up knowing a little more about it than someone tells me just feels right." Exempla St. Joseph’s in Denver was founded in 1873 and is the oldest private teaching hospital in Colorado. The hospital performs more open-heart surgeries and delivers more babies than any other hospital in Denver.