Today's Medicine

The Unseen Members of Your Care Team: Health Care Risk Managers

Published: June 18, 2020


Prioritizing Patient Safety

You might normally associate risk management with the business world. Risk is anything that could result in an unexpected outcome or loss. But in health care, the stakes aren’t just financial – they’re life and death. In health care risk management, we proactively identify risks, analyze processes and support our staff in implementing changes that enhance safety – yours and theirs. Because safe patient care impacts you – the patient – and those providing that care. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how true that is. Think back to when Methodist’s hospitals and hospitals all across the country first had to restrict visitors and modify entrances to prevent the spread of the virus. You saw the announcement, but you may not have seen the quick thinking, problem-solving and collaboration that went on behind the scenes. 

We needed to set a new visitor and COVID-19 screening policy at our entrances, but we first needed the processes in place to make it happen. We needed to:

  • Staff the points of entry with screeners and identify who those people would be 
  • Train screeners and standardize that training across the health system 
  • Acquire the proper screening equipment. 
  • Communicate with security and clinical staff to make sure everyone was speaking the same language
  • Think through potential scenarios and make sure our screeners had the tools to respond to them 

The questions constantly are our minds were: How do we keep everyone safe? And how do we provide the best care we possibility can during such a fluid and uncertain time? Ultimately, when a problem is presented to us, risk management’s goal is to support staff and facilitate solutions. We want to empower the boots on the ground – the people who are the experts in your care and know what’s possible to make that care even better. That way, when you come through our door, you won’t even notice all the work that went into making that walk over the threshold as safe as possible.  


You Can Help Make Us Stronger

What I really want you to know about health care risk management at Methodist is that we have your backs, and we’re constantly trying to improve your care and safety. We do that through communication and by encouraging a culture of reporting. Through a central system designed for accountability, staff can report anything that feels like a deviation from what is best for patient safety. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s a problem with a process. We facilitate the solution and communicate what happened so that we can prevent that unexpected outcome from ever happening again. Reporting is not a blame game – it makes us all stronger and better at our jobs.

You, the patient, are a huge part of that culture of reporting. Methodist wants your feedback – we don’t know what we don’t know. If you have a complaint or compliment about your care, we want to hear from you. When you contact us through, your message is actually read by someone – and doesn’t get lost in the ether. Once that message gets to us, we’re on the case. And you may get a phone call from us wanting more information. We understand the need to be heard. We want you to be heard. Your feedback can make future patients even safer.

Our risk management team consists of all clinically trained nurses. We’re no longer helping patients at the bedside each day, but if we’re able to improve a process and help 500 patients with that one change, we’re still touching lives. Our joy and satisfaction comes from making sure providers, nurses and staff are able to provide the best care possible. 

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About the Author

Jenene VandenBurg, MS, BSN, RN, joined the Methodist family in 2010 as a registered nurse. She’s currently Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital’s vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer, overseeing the medical/surgical unit, telemetry, intensive care, the birthing center, the emergency department, respiratory care, surgery, outpatient services and the inpatient psychiatric unit. 

Prior to her current role, VandenBurg served as Jennie Edmundson’s director of quality and performance improvement. She’s also taken on multiple leadership roles, including administrative director of nursing services at Jennie Edmundson and patient safety lead at Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women’s Hospital. 

The Nebraska Methodist College alumna has more than five years of clinical experience and a multistate nursing license in Nebraska and Iowa. She is trained in emergency management and holds a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma, which represents proficiency in planning, controlling and improving performance.

See more articles from Jenene VandenBurg, MS, BSN-RN
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