FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Weed Army Community Hospital and its Department of Behavioral Health has started 2019 with a bang. With months of Joint Commission (JC) preparation, WACH entered the new year with feelings of both optimism and ambivalence. The latter was obvious, given the long-anticipated arrival of Joint Commission to survey WACH in January. The Joint Commission survey has become commonly known in the healthcare industry as the ‘make it or break it’ test for any medical treatment facility.
In May of 2018, Col. Larry France became the commander of WACH. With more than 32 years of military service and experience, Col. France clearly understood the short-lived celebration of becoming the new commander of a military treatment facility, and went right to work by immediately setting the priorities regarding the way ahead for his organization. Not surprisingly, the biggest target on his priority lists was the Joint Commission survey that would be anticipated at any time between October 2018 and March 2019. Immediately, there were amassing of efforts to sharpen the organization’s focus and preparation for JC survey. There were bi-monthly JC huddles for the first, several months to track, synchronize and close out items that were deemed priority for the JC. Then it narrowed to weekly JC huddles during the last, couple of months prior to the JC survey, especially when it was determined the JC would most likely arrive around January 2019.
As each month came to a close, and as the organization inched closer and closer to JC survey, Col. France knew that beyond the daily and weekly completion of every tasks associated with JC, his main focus now was to project confidence and instill hope among his team. You would often hear some of his mantras like, “Get the low hanging fruits,” “We work hard and play hard,” and “Take care of those entrusted to your leadership and care,” all of which are fundamentally underpinned by the Army’s philosophy of Mission Command. As a resident graduate of the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Col. France understood that real success in any organization at its core is about people. And while the Army War College provides a curriculum that focuses on strategic level critical thinking in solving global complex problems, it too at its core is about people. Col. France’s exercise of Mission Command was evident in his ability to empower his subordinates with disciplined initiative and discretion, all while making a positive connection with his staff at a human level. Simply put, Mission Command was the “Way,” daily/weekly interactions with staff during huddles was the “Means,” and building strong relationships/connections with people and achieving by-in from his staff was the “Ends.” And if you get that right, the JC will work itself out.
Such is the case with WACH’s Department of Behavioral Health (DBH), considered the hospital’s highest performing department. Low-hanging fruits, work hard and play hard, take care of those entrusted to your care and leadership– those mantras were part of an echo chamber for the DBH leadership. Led by Maj. (P) Porter and his deputy Maj. Sendejo, DBH excelled during the WACH Joint Commission survey. According to the JC survey team, “[DBH] this is the best ever JC binder we’ve ever seen.” Whether it was their data management metrics or performance improvement projects, or risk assessment plans for ligature risks and Behavioral Health Systems of Care (BHSOC) delivery, DBH’s performance was truly unmatched. Not surprisingly, the DBH was the first of three areas of the JC survey for WACH to receive its full JC accreditation. But if you ask Maj. Porter about the secret sauce to the DBH’s success, naturally, “It’s about people, the enlisted, civilian work force…it’s about the front desk workers.”