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A Passion for Patient Care:
Sherry Garrett, Director of Emergency Services, and the Columbia St. Mary's Ozaukee Emergency Department 

When Sherry L. Garrett (RN, BSN, MBA, EMT-IT) was recruited by Columbia St. Mary’s in 2006 to work in the Ozaukee emergency department, she was impressed with the hospital’s philosophy of care, its core values and passion for excellence.  She felt the position was a good fit and made great use of her graduate degree in business administration.

Three team members discuss a patient's chart. 

Pictured back row: Kurt Grade, ECT; Michael Lawrence, PA. Middle row: Judy Lafond, RN; Phyllis Carrier, ESC; Mary Williams, RN; Peggy Kruepke, RN; Joanne Platek, RN; Jerry Blink, volunteer; Sherry Garrett, Director. Seated: Kala Conely, ECT; Kate Ratajczak, RN; Dr. McCoy. 

As the director of emergency services at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee, Sherry is charged with overseeing the work of 45 employees in the department.  She is responsible for patient satisfaction, staff development and satisfaction, cost-effective management of resources, quality outcomes, medical staff collaboration, process improvement, and furthering of the mission of Columbia St. Mary’s.  It was her personal and professional dedication to improving both the patient and staff experience that resulted in some significant transformations to the emergency department.

The changes
In summer 2008, Sherry brought together a Service Task Force to develop a plan to improve the patient experience.  The plan started with the understanding that patients are top priority.  To help patients and their families stay better informed about the hospital care they receive, the Task Force employed rounding, an effort to check in on each patient at least once an hour by a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse or ER technician.  Sherry and her emergency department staff then took rounding a step further by doing follow-up phone calls to check on patients once discharged.

“Each member of the Task Force feels strongly about providing the best possible care for patients,” said Sandy Boerner, Task Force member and registered nurse at Columbia St. Mary’s for twenty-five years. “To meet this goal, we understand the importance of gaining feedback from patients about their emergency room experiences.”

The department’s hard work and commitment to providing exceptional patient care is paying off.

“Everyone realizes how good it feels when patients say wonderful things about the care they received in our emergency department,” said Sherry.  “We post all the wonderful letters, cards and kudos on our bulletin board for all to see.  This kind of feedback lets us know that we provided quality and compassionate service during a stressful time.”

The changes Sherry implemented have resulted in much improved service data scores from Press Ganey, the leading independent provider of patient satisfaction measurements.  Within nine months, the department was able to improve its scores from the 83rd percentile to the 93rd percentile. Anecdotally, Sherry also evaluates her department’s success on an increase in thank-you notes from patients praising Columbia St. Mary’s emergency department care. 

Although Sherry is pleased with the improvements in patient care at the emergency department, she says, “It’s always a work in progress, and as a first-born overachiever, I will settle for nothing less than being the benchmark for all other hospitals to follow.”

The future
Planned exterior and interior renovations, funded by a few key generous donors, will soon contribute to improved patient experience as well. Beginning in May 2010, the emergency department will undergo cosmetic upgrades to enhance the appearance of the entry into the hospital and emergency department. These improvements will provide patients with more privacy both while registering and waiting in the lobby. The project is expected to be completed by the end of August.


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