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Jameson Norton: Your voice is vital to our mission of caring

Jameson Norton, CEO of VPH

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of Q&A interviews with some of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s leaders to talk about why all staff members should take the VUMC Culture Survey: Pulse Edition, which is May 1-22, to help us build a stronger and better VUMC.

As CEO of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital (VPH) and Clinics and executive director of Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, Jameson Norton oversees a team that offers a range of outpatient and inpatient mental health services for patients, ages 4 to 99. They provide these services via an 88-bed hospital, neuromodulation suite, various clinics and specialized programs throughout Middle Tennessee.

The staff of 300 has a lot to be proud of as a relatively new leadership team has partnered with them to focus on making sure there is a diverse voice of employees who contributes to a better learning environment and improved quality of service for everyone. We recently sat down with him to find out how his team has incorporated employee feedback into their operations since last year’s survey and how they ensure that each employee’s thoughts are heard.

VUMC: Why is the VUMC Culture Survey: Pulse Edition important to leadership and staff?

Jameson Norton: For us, the survey is an assessment tool to track progress toward our goal of creating a transformational culture. I think we all want a culture that delights, inspires and empowers our staff and patients — creating an environment that is both safe and a place of healing. A place where we can all feel trusted and empowered to be our best, give 100 percent each day, improve the lives of our patients and cultivate translational learning. I believe the survey helps us as a learning organization to continuously improve and grow with new ideas and meaningful feedback from our team who have real ownership and a shared future at VPH.

VUMC: Why is it important that employees’ thoughts are heard?

Norton: We are a team, and every member matters and makes a critical difference. Each voice and perspective is vital to our mission of caring and discovery as we learn and grow from insights at all levels within the organization. At the heart of this survey is the idea that everybody has an indispensable voice and unique perspective that contributes to our mission. If any of our components are not heard or engaged in the right way, we are not at our best and cannot reach our true potential as an organization. Great organizations are composed of great teams of individuals that speak up, take initiative, and take ownership to help solve whatever problems and future challenges that we encounter.

VUMC: What does engagement mean to you?

Norton:  To me, engagement is an emotional bond between our staff and the organization. It’s creating an environment where staff members feel connected, trusted, and safe to be the best version of themselves. This happens by demonstrating our values day in and day out. An engaged team is generally a successful team, and it starts with leadership at all levels serving, developing, communicating, and setting the example. We’ve all heard the idea that culture trumps strategy. In a thriving culture, the best solutions will come organically from an engaged and talented staff who grow and adapt to meet the needs of our community and region. Engagement creates a multiplier effect that magnifies our impact and strengthens our team to take care of each other with mutual respect, support and encouragement as we care for this community.

VUMC: What are some of the ways you tried to incorporate last year’s survey results into your department?

Norton:  We’ve done several things that we believe have made a difference in engagement. We believe in the power of community, so we created a monthly community gathering — separate from our quarterly Town Halls — to celebrate and recognize our staff. We’ve created a couple of new awards —the Impact Award and a Good Catch Award — to reinforce a culture of safety, to enable staff to nominate their colleagues, and to highlight some incredible day-to-day demonstrations of our values. We try to incorporate some of the unique talents of our staff members during these events including music, stories of compassion, poems and mindfulness training. We have also launched several committees to build on priority initiatives including a multi-disciplinary Quality Oversight Committee, focused on patient safety and quality improvement; Culture Committee, focused on staff celebrations and creating a vibrant work environment; and a Mission and Values Committee, to articulate who we are and what we believe as a unique entity within VUMC. Leadership rounding each day, multidisciplinary leadership safety huddles each morning, and regular focus groups are just a few mechanisms we are using to ensure a diverse group of our team’s voices are heard in real time.