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Creating the Caring, Ethical Workplace:Aurora Medical Center CEO Sylvia Young

Few workplaces create as much stress or are as demanding as health care, particularly in these times of cost pressures. Health care organizations that succeed place the highest value upon patient care while also caring for their staff. Sylvia Young, CEO of the Medical Center of Aurora, Colorado, one of the largest employers in the city, recently outlined some of the personal and professional strategies she believes are key to building a healthy organization that delivers excellent patient care. She is supported by a 12-person senior executive team, 11 of whom are women. Young spoke recently to the Colorado Women###s Chamber of Commerce (www.cwcc.org).

Young stresses a culture where leaders model the Medical Center###s mission of seeking to serve and hear the customer. Leaders are expected to take turns rounding on patients every 24 hours, with everyone from Young herself to the CFO stopping in to visit patients and families. Customers are also asked to complete questionnaires about the services they receive, and when employees receive compliments, Young writes notes to the employee conveying the praise. Our behaviors speak louder than our mission statement, notes Young.

Young also stresses the importance of ethics and courage in the work environment. Nothing is important enough to lie about, she says. Ethics should be applied to everyday little decisions as well as more dramatic decisions. We have a full-time ethics and compliance officer, as well as a code of conduct and training every year for employees, after which they must sign a card noting they have had the training and agree to the code, she says.

She noted that having courage to do the ethical or courageous thing sometimes will cost the organization business, but it is worth it. Humility is a virtue Young has come to appreciate, particularly as it drives accountability for errors. When an employee makes an error it can be a life or death situation, and the hospitals with the best outcomes practice full disclosure and have humility through the process. Leadership must also be accountable. Mistakes make us what we are and teach us that we must never give up, she says.

Young has been recognized for her mentoring of others. Lift as you climb, she says. The more you climb the more you need to lift others. It takes a lot of work, but when you can retain employees, it pays off handsomely. We recently were able to do internal promotions for all three of our empty executive positions.

When evaluating potential employees, Young prefers those who look for challenges while balancing their lives. They contribute more than people who can###t remember the last day they took off, she says.

And finally, as an executive, Young knows how important it is to allow time to recover from stressful periods and get prepared for the next stressful event. I model that for my group, she says.

For more info about the Medical Center of Aurora, go to www.auroramed.com.