Emergency Departments Combine Doctors and Nurses into One High-Functioning Unit

In preparation of the move into the new medical center in Muskegon, doctors and nurses from the Emergency Departments at Mercy and Hackley campuses in Muskegon are working through barriers and beginning to see each other as partners and family through ongoing change management efforts.

The Nursing Units: Adversaries Become Allies

In the beginning they seemed as divided as Michigan and Michigan State fans.

“They didn’t even sit on the same side of the table. Each wanted to do it their own way,” recalls Hackley Nurse Manager Marquette Marsman about the first meeting between Hackley ER Nurses and Mercy ER Nurses. “It took about two hours to get through that.”

That was over six months ago.

Since then, the seemingly immovable opponents found their common ground: providing the best care for the patient. “The biggest strength of the group is that it’s not about them, it’s about the patient,” says Michelle Bierman, director of Clinical services, Critical Care, Emergency and Trauma for Mercy Health Muskegon. Once that was established, both sides began to meld. Bierman says conversations now focus on how the nurses can pull both teams together and they willingly accept each other’s ideas.

“Now it’s: Let’s do it your way; that sounds better,” Bierman says with a smile.

Michelle Bierman (left) and Sherri Passenier (right) coaching one of their colleagues

Monthly meetings have brought not only a sense of unity among the ER nurses, but a sense of pride in the new, state-of-the-art Emergency Room they are about to share. “We went from wanting everything stocked in the supply rooms, to wanting to be cost effective and leaner,” said Sherri Passenier, nurse manager for Mercy Health Muskegon. She says that realization occurred when the nurses noticed there were over 100 different types of supplies used between the two hospitals. “The conversations now are around what is best for the patient, even when it comes to supplies.”

The teamwork continues to strengthen. “They’ve discovered merging expertise is exciting,” said Passenier.

The merging of expertise didn’t stop with supplies. The 55 Hackley ER nurses and the 45 Mercy ER nurses also agreed they needed experience working in each other’s Emergency Room to bring seamless patient care to the new ER. Their reaction to the job swaps even surprised Marsman as she recalls hearing one colleague comment about Hackley’s ER: “They do things a lot differently, even their patients are different. I’d go over there any time.”

Trust in leadership has been essential in bringing these two sides together. Marsman says that consistently reassuring our colleagues helped the process. “Letting them tour the new ER and seeing how big it is and that it’s going to take all of us and more to staff the new medical center, helped ease the concerns over job loss, seniority and shift changes.”

Now just months away from the new Emergency Department opening, Passenier is witnessing these two sides become one. “People aren’t jumping ship; they want to be a part of this team.”

Because, at the heart of it all is the patient and the determination to give them the best medical care possible.

The Emergency Department Physicians: Equal Partnership Equals Unity

Jerry Evans, MD

For decades, Muskegon has been served by two Emergency Departments – one located at Hackley Campus near downtown Muskegon and one at Mercy Campus located just two miles away on East Sherman Boulevard. Six months from now, the current staff at Mercy will move into the new Emergency Department at Mercy Campus. Beginning in November 2019, Hackley colleagues will join their Mercy counterparts and come together in a single, physical space – finally leaving one central location for all hospital care In Muskegon.

Just as the nurses have worked through their differences and come together to serve patients as a unified team – the Emergency Department physicians also had to learn how to combine two separate business models when deciding how to best serve patients in the new medical center.

Negotiations for the merger of the two Emergency Departments at Mercy Health Muskegon began five years ago, eventually leading to the creation of a new joint Emergency Physicians group called, Lake Michigan Emergency Specialists. Dr. Jerry Evans, medical director of Mercy Health Muskegon Emergency departments, headed up the task of creating what would be the first but necessary step in the merger. “The two ED groups had very different business models, but when it came down to it, it was almost a unanimous vote on how to run the new group,” recalls Evans.  “We wanted every physician to have a say and an opportunity to be able to become a full partner in the corporation. Really, a matter of getting to know each other and finding a model that would work for both groups. We took some of their model and some of ours and made it work. That’s a huge win.”

Shortly after the corporation was approved, Dr. Evans was elected to serve as medical director for both hospitals.

“The fact that we are one group and we are united to provide excellent care in our new facility is incredible. I think it’s a really great and exciting time for our new ED,” said Evans.

That first step of the merger also included Emergency physicians treating patients at both hospitals. Evans says staff was a little unsure at first. “Mercy Campus physicians do things one way, or the Hackley physicians may do things differently. That stereotype may have tried to carry over but it didn’t last.”

It was all part of the process when creating a state-of-the-art Emergency Department which will be able to see over 90,000 patients a year. “I’ve just been so impressed by the way the colleagues have come together.” says Evans.

As the largest merger of departments for the new Mercy Health medical center, Dr. Evans believes the work they put in over the last five years is what helped lay the ground work for their success. Other mergers of physician groups have included:  Anesthesia, Radiology and Pathology, however – ED and OR will be the first departments in the new medical center.

“I hope we’ve been a good example to many other groups.”

Additional departments are now using examples of the positive change management tactics implemented by both the ED physicians and nursing groups. Imaging, lab and many others will be continuing efforts to streamline processes and increase team productivity throughout the coming months and even further into the future. Check back at Mercy Health News for more stories related to consolidation efforts centered around our colleagues.




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