“Northwestern Memorial Hospital” Many in the Chicagoland region and around the nation would consider Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH), a

“Northwestern Memorial Hospital”

Many in the Chicagoland region and around the nation would consider Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH), a 146-year-old institution, to be among the very best teaching hospitals. It has earned this distinction because of its high-quality patient care, extraordinary physicians, and hospital staff, as well as strong financial position, and world-class facilities.

Not one to rest on its laurels, NMH is continually changing and striving for excellence. In 1999, the hospital opened its new, 2 million square foot health-care facility. The 17-story Feinberg Inpatient Pavilion and the 22-story Galter Outpatient Pavilion share an eight-floor base of public areas and diagnostic and therapeutic services. Dean Manheimer, Senior VP, Human Resources stated, “This was a major accomplishment. When we were finished, we asked ourselves, what’s the next mountain we should be climbing?”

That mountain turned out to be an ambitious strategic plan with three critical interrelated goals: (1) provide the best patient experience; (2) recruit, develop, and retain the best people; and (3) develop the resources to achieve its mission and vision through exceptional financial performance. Among other things, this strategy strove for a more comprehensive and integrated approach to workforce development. Central to its success is NMH’s new Learning Academy, launched in 2002. Seen as the lever to advance its “best people” strategy, the Academy oversees all management development, clinical and other functional education, facilitates the creation of new training and certificate programs, and builds outside workforce development partnerships. 

Early in 2000, the Human Resources office conducted an internal audit of its education programs. While the hospital always had an abundance of opportunities for staff development, the audit uncovered unnecessary redundancies within the hospital’s education offerings. For example, six courses were being taught six different ways for Body Mechanics—the movement of patients. NMH developed the Academy to establish standardized training policies and solutions, link the education programs closely to the organization’s business strategy, provide staff easy access to learning, and utilize the most efficient technologies. 

Today, the Academy provides an online catalog and registration system for all the hospital’s education programs, which total over 200 courses ranging from communications, project management, information services, and budgeting to an array of healthcare specialties, some of which have been designed by internal instructional staff in cooperation with employees who are subject matter experts. Area community colleges and universities are also brought onsite to deliver high-demand, credit-based courses. Last year, the Academy delivered approximately 55,000 hours of training to 21,000 employees and received a 91 percent satisfaction rate. In addition, the Academy delivered over 3,000 hours of management training to higher level staff, including human resources best practices, diversity education, building collaborative workplaces, and delivering/receiving constructive performance feedback. The Academy also hosts skill development “Lunch and Learn” sessions where managers and employees learn, for example, flexible scheduling strategies, personal development planning, and interviewing techniques. 

But what many staff members are most proud of are the three “schools” the Academy developed for Nuclear Medicine, Radiation Therapy, and Diagnostic Medical Sonography. The schools offer onsite programs that are open to both employees and community members. In August 2003, the first class of seven graduated from the school of Nuclear Medicine, an important achievement, given the skill shortage in this area. NMH hired many of the students, eliminating all hospital vacancies for the first time in five years. In addition, NMH eliminated staff overtime and agency usage, resulting in a cost savings of over $800,000. 

What is the strategy pursued by NMH? Can it be easily classified as differentiation or cost reduction? As internal or external labor orientation?

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