This article was published in our 2015 Annual Report.
Every surface was polished and shining and immaculately maintained: this is the detail that comes to mind when General Surgeon Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli thinks back to his first visit to Gifford.
This small detail reflected a sense of connection and ownership that still impresses him today: staff members feel connected to the organization and take pride in their work.
“The people who work here take care of what’s theirs,” says Podiatrist Dr. Nicolas Benoit, who took over as Director of Surgical Services when Dr. Ciccarelli stepped down from the role in December.
Building relationships—to employees, to patients, to the people we serve—is key to Gifford’s success. They form a connecting thread that keeps us in touch with community concerns and needs, and has sustained us through a changing healthcare landscape for more than 100 years. People feel they are an important part of the organization and they want to help make it the best it can be.
“Gifford is very well-managed and has a concern for its employees some find unusual in the 21st century,” said Dr. Ciccarelli. “Every employee is in the same boat. You see this in our quarterly staff meetings, in how people are treated, and even in how we’ve weathered financial ups and downs: there’s never been a layoff. Everyone’s expected to not panic, to ride with it, and to pull a little harder.”
Over the years significant expansion and growth has been driven not by a business strategy, but in direct response to specific community needs (improvements to ensure access to quality local care or to fill needs like sports medicine or senior needs).
Doctors Ciccarelli and Benoit have witnessed major changes in their area in the last 10 years: the addition of a third operating room; a new ancillary services wing and patient-friendly surgical services floor; a systematized approach to wound care; and a radiology department transformed by the most modern technology and the expertise of two full-time radiologists. They say that the sense of an “employee team” has contributed to the organization’s growth over the years, bringing a resiliency and nimbleness that has allowed quick and thoughtful responses to internal and external change.
“I’m always impressed by how fast we can band together to get something accomplished here,” said Dr. Benoit. “People are willing to give the extra effort—if something seems impossible, we break it down in smaller steps to build it faster.”
The Art Behind the Science
Across the organization people are encouraged to collaborate and to help bring new colleagues up to speed when needed. As a surgeon in a small community hospital, Dr. Ciccarelli says peer support is especially important.
“The biggest challenge for a surgeon in rural health care is isolation,” he said. “Electronic media has made it easier to stay current, but most of surgery is an art, not a science: knowing what to do when is important, but how you do it and how much to do—this is where having peers becomes important.”
For Dr. Ciccarelli, nurturing relationships is especially important for recruiting a new generation of community health care providers—so many students are now encouraged to specialize or to take positions in larger hospitals, primarily because of student loan obligations. Both Leslie Osterman and Rebecca Savidge completed rotations with him as students, and both are now practicing at Gifford.
“Direct patient care is an honor and a privilege. Believe me, nothing beats being at a bedside with a patient!” he says. “We need to show young people how rewarding caring for patients can be.”