South Florida Hospital News
Thursday February 25, 2021

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July 2004 - Volume 1 - Issue 1

Patient Care Is Number One For Mulvihill and CSMC and WRHP

For every nurse, there’s at least one patient who stands out. Deborah Mulvihill remembers a patient who had suffered violent injuries, the type from which some people never recover. He was comatose practically from the time he arrived on her unit until he was transferred to rehab. So imagine the nurses’ surprise when, several months later, that same patient they had cared for came walking back into their unit, recovered, to thank them for all they had done for him.

"He remembered every one of us," recalled Mulvihill, who said it proved something long suspected. "Nurses have the greatest impact on patients’ lives."

That lesson first took root when Mulvihill, the CEO of Coral Springs Medical Center (CSMC) and Weston Regional Health Park, was a teenage candy striper in a hospital near her suburban Chicago family home.

"I knew I wanted a career where I could help people. I thought about social work, but when I was a candy striper, the nurses were kind enough to let me follow them around and patient enough to answer all my questions. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a nurse."

Although her role in healthcare has changed a great deal since then, her commitment to helping people never has. Quality patient care and community service are the guiding themes at both facilities.

"I believe that (quality patient care and community service) was a mindset that already existed here, but we’ve been able to build upon it," she said. "I try to make rounds on every unit and introduce myself to the patients. We ask our patients and the community what things are we doing well and what things we should focus on more. We have to constantly ask ourselves what is going to make us stand out in terms of service."

To answer those questions more effectively, CSMC and WRHP has taken several steps. First, a Guest Relations Department was put in place where patients and their family members have someone who can guide them through many of the uncertainties that come with a hospital stay. Many of the services provided – room service, complimentary newspaper delivery, a guest services book – seem more suited to a stay in a fine hotel, but the goal is to lessen the stress that patients and their families experience, and help the stay be as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

To better serve the community, a Community Relations Council was established where people from community groups and hospital staff sits down together and develop ways to improve the health of the community. One initiative has been the Pediatric Drowning Prevention Task Force, whose slogan is "Watch Your Kid, You’ll Be Glad You Did." Mulvihill launched this initiative when she noticed the 100 percent increase in drowning in Broward County from 2001 to 2002. Partnering with the American Red Cross, the City of Coral Springs, Coral Springs Fire Rescue, and physicians, the program got underway in January 2003 with the message that adult supervision is essential for reducing the number of drownings.

In addition, CSMC has long-standing partnerships with Parkside and Riverside Elementary schools. Free health screenings and educational programs such as Baby Sitting, CPR & Choking, and Home Alone Safety send a message to the young people that they are a part of the community and CSMC cares for them.

Because Broward County has a growing senior community, Mulvihill and staff established a Senior Service Department to educate seniors on different health issues and make them aware of all of the services offered at CSMC. They have established this rapport with their elderly population by partnering with organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Family Center, the Arthritis Foundation, the Area Agency on Aging, and Broward Homebound, to name just a few.

Through steps such as these and many others, Mulvihill has won the trust of the community, her employees, and the medical staff. She credits her nursing background with helping win that trust, but it wasn’t always easy.

"My nursing background has helped me as CEO, because I am better able to understand the concerns physicians have," she says. "But at the same time, I think it was a bit of a hindrance at first. I think many of the physicians were worried that I would be a nurse-advocate, so I was tested to see if I could be trusted. I’m a patient-advocate, and now that they realize that our relationship is fine."

Still, there are challenges to be faced. Industry-wide, Mulvihill sees the medical liability crisis as a problem that needs to be solved. She has seen how it affects emergency calls, and vows to work with the state legislature and Congress for state and national improvements. She doesn’t see changes coming this year though.

The other major challenge is institutional. "At CSMC I would like to see our recent master campus plan come to fruition in the next five years," she says.

The plan includes a bigger physical plant with an expanded Emergency Department (which is the fifth busiest in Broward County), labor and delivery rooms, and surgical suites. It also includes making all of the patient rooms private, a new cardiac catheterization lab, and hyperbaric department as well as a second Medical Office Building. While some may see this as ambitious, Mulvihill believes this plan will succeed for a very simple reason.

"The most important reason for my success is that I’ve been able to hire and work with excellent people from our CFO, CNO and COO, to the department heads, on down through the rest of the staff," she says. "We have a great team here at Coral Springs."

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