As a hospital administrator at Paediatric Partners Hospital since 2016, Ms Hope Uchenna Okerezi has a high standard to set and maintain in her work. In charge of manpower, money and machinery, she leads people, formulates processes and makes decisions to work towards achieving the organization’s goals and promoting its growth. It comes without surprise that ensuring the delivery of excellent services to patients while maintaining a healthy work environment for the staff comes with its fair share of challenges. Ms Uchenna has shared with us the ways in which she has overcome them as well as the aspects of her work that keep her grounded and motivated to move forward when the going gets tough.
What challenges has she faced in her organization as well as in her role and how has she overcome them?
The two challenges that Ms Uchenna has outlined are patient satisfaction and process implementation.
Ms Uchenna considers the satisfaction of the patients and that of their parents a top priority. “We have zero tolerance for unsatisfactory patient experience” she said, resolute in respecting the hospital’s mission: “to provide prompt medical care to children using best practices by professionals, in a people friendly environment”. In that regard, she makes sure that any feedback received is taken seriously at all times through the use of surveys. Once all this information is gathered, improvements are made in the hospital processes based on them. This was the case when a mother complained of neglect while hospitalized with her child. The first step towards resolving this issue was for Ms Uchenna to reach out to the mother to inquire about her complaint as well as present her apologies on behalf of the organization. This step sufficed to appease the parent but she took it one step further by sending her a cake. Ms Uchenna stated that “The cake was not just to apologise but to appreciate her loving us and caring enough about our need to improve our service”. The next step was to sanction the behaviour appropriately while making sure it does not happen another time.
It is one thing to formulate the changes needed to improve services and another to implement such changes. This is where another challenge arises according to her. In order to maintain the organization’s standards, it is crucial to have everyone committed to apply these processes at all times. Therefore, Ms Uchenna encourages the hospital’s staff to employ a systems approach in everything they do. This means that all departments must understand their mutually dependent nature and as such, activities in one department impact those of another. Moreover, the establishment of retraining sessions has also helped the staff improve their performance. These two solutions have proven to be effective with regards to making everyone’s load lighter, according to her.
What aspect of her work keeps her motivated?
Among all the aspects of her multifaceted role, the process formulation and development is the one she finds most fulfilling. From ideation to implementation through getting everyone’s buy in, this is a procedure that she finds thrilling. She looks forward to the part where she gets to observe how well the concept is being received and the adjustments that need to be made based on reports. In her own words, incorporating client feedback “serves as a reminder that people are noticing our efforts to stand out and this has continually kept us on our toes”. This gives her a sense that her work is impactful for the betterment of the organization. She has had such a feeling when she led the development of required authorization documents. Upon noticing that parents would call anytime for their children’s records without following any particular procedure, she realized that under those circumstances, information may be given to a non-parent or to a parent without legal custody hence exposing the hospital to litigation. The process that she introduced provided them with legal coverage for most things needing authorization and has also made parents better planners since they have to follow the requesting guidelines. As a result, both parents' satisfaction and legal coverage are well balanced.
In addition to patient satisfaction, Ms Uchenna is motivated by the support she receives from her medical directors, Dr. Atinuke Uwajeh and Dr. Ekuase Sanusi whom she describes as exceptional leaders. It is this support that empowers her to drive activities at the hospital while allowing her time to enrol in self-improvement courses and sponsoring some of the training. Ms Uchenna says that she derives satisfaction from having her knowledge and skills adequately utilized.
What are the key values she applies to her daily life in her role as a hospital administrator?
“Empathy, playfulness and firmness”, she replied. Empathy allows her not only to put herself in someone else’s shoes and understand what they feel but also to seek ways to empower them and provide active assistance. Playfulness is important to encourage staff to explore new ideas while being aware that they can make mistakes and learn from them. Leading by example, she laughs at herself when she makes mistakes and does not take life too seriously which allows her to relate to everyone despite being the oldest in age amongst the staff. Lastly, firmness is well encapsulated in her statement “while we play, when it’s time to work, we must” with regards to her zero tolerance towards non-compliance to laid down rules.
How has her training at HLA benefited her work?
Ms Uchenna has attended the Patient Centered Care programme. In her journey as a hospital administrator, the essential takeaways she has gained from HLA are that quality care means different things to different people, there are more to people than meets the eye and most importantly, without the patient there is no healthcare. “These learnings have really given me a different perspective and approach to patient care thus helping me strive for patient centered care and improved patient’s experience at all times”, she said.
Ms Uchenna’s passion for her work shows well through her sense of priority, her resilience when faced with obstacles, and her constant learner mindset. As a healthcare delivery enthusiast, in the future, she wishes to see more collaboration between healthcare specialists through a 2-way referral system without the fear of losing patients as well as the emergence of more knowledgeable nurses who are confident self-starters and problem solvers.
Ms Hope Uchenna Okerezi has obtained her training from the Lagos State School of Nursing and the Lagos State School of Midwifery in 1989 and 2001 respectively. In 2008, she received her training in Ophthalmic Nursing at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). In 2018, she completed management training such as Patient Centered Care from Healthcare Leadership Academy, Leadership and Management in health from University of Washington and Healthcare Management course from Enterprise Development Centre Under Pan Atlantic University.
She has had a 30-year career as a nurse. Her career path includes Hanoba Medical Centre, Maria Medical Centre, Roding medical Centre, Eye Foundation Hospital, Britannia Hospital and Pediatric Partners Hospital. In her quest for more challenging positions, she moved from being a deputy matron at Consultant and Children practice to Britannia Hospital as a Hospital administrator with just practical experience. She decided to attend the Hospital Management program when she moved to Pediatric Partners Hospital.