Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remembering Neil Wortley

Neil Wortley, former administrator and one of CoxHealth's best ambassadors, passed away Monday morning at his home at the age of 89. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and many friends.

Mr. Wortley had a rich history with CoxHealth. He became administrator of Cox Medical Centers in 1952 and, with the exception of eight years with the Missouri Department of Health, held that position until his semi-retirement in 1985. Under his guidance the medical center grew from a 496-bed hospital in 1965 to a regional health center that included 510-bed Cox South. In his later years, he served Cox as administrator emeritus and focused on fundraising to support hospital services and patients.

Mr. Wortley is likely best remembered by his Cox “family” for his hospital rounds. Holiday rounds were often celebrated with a festive costume ranging from bunny ears at Easter to flashing lights at Christmas time. He loved Cox and the employees and spread his good will generously with us all.

Memorial Services will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 2, in First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, under the direction of Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday in the funeral home.

Mr. Wortley: A Living Legacy
CoxHealth Connection, May 2006

During CoxHealth's 2006 centennial celebration, then-Corporate Communications director Chris Whitley wrote this profile of Neil Wortley. This piece covers Mr. Wortley’s long history with the organization while capturing the spirit that made him a CoxHealth legend. We wanted to share it again with everyone who had the pleasure of working with Mr. Wortley.

It’s a good life these days, being Neil Wortley.

You’re still an early riser, though perhaps not as early as when you ran Cox Hospitals and would make rounds at all hours — weekdays, weekends and holidays alike. These days, you have the luxury of going back to bed after breakfast if you want, so sometimes that’s exactly what you do — but only now and then.

There is too much going on in your world to miss.

At 84 years old, you are more alive than plenty of people half your age. Three times a week, you drive yourself to the Meyer Fitness Center, where you pump iron and break sweat, not just as exercise for the body and mind, but as an act of stubborn defiance against time.

You still fit into the same old Burge School of Nursing sweat suit that you wore three decades ago. Okay, you admit, it’s “a little tight” in a place or two, but it makes you chuckle when you realize it’s older than most of the youngsters zipping around you on the running track.

You still crack jokes with folks wherever you go around town.

And yes, you devil, you are still stealing hugs and kisses from pretty girls of all ages. Nobody but you could get away with this.

Best of all, people genuinely love and respect you for who you are, and for all you’ve done to help build CoxHealth into what it is, even though so many of these folks are too young to have a clue about all that you did over four decades as administrative assistant, administrator and CEO.

It’s a safe bet that few people know you grew up in the little town of Lake Odessa, Michigan, where you return each year for your class reunion, or that you earned the nickname “Digger” because of a youthful apprenticeship at your Uncle Walter’s furniture store and funeral parlor.

No one would be all that surprised to learn that you were drawn to a career as a mortician because, as you say, “that’s a profession that allows you to really serve people when they really need you.”

That’s so you, the serving of other people.

Even when it’s not entirely a voluntary act, as it was in 1942 when the draft marched you off to basic training at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Ark., and then to a surgical technician’s job at O’Reilly Army Medical Hospital in Springfield.

The Army Medical Corps brought you to Springfield, and O’Reilly brought profound changes to your life. How could anyone not be changed, working in a place where the daily mission was to patch up the lives of young men who had come home in pieces from World War II? You were so good at it that you eventually became a trainer of medics.

Your hospital career had begun.

Coming to O’Reilly changed your world in a bigger way. A blind date with Mary Orr, a doctor’s daughter from Ash Grove, led you to the altar. Actually, it led to your sister-in-law’s house, where on a three-day pass from the Army, you and Mary married. You remember every bit of that day, right down to the fried chicken you ate that evening at Riverside Inn.

Mary, herself a nurse, would be your devoted partner and confidante for the next 44 years, until she passed in 1989. She had been with you that Sunday afternoon in 1947 when you were flipping through one of her Dad’s old AMA Journals, and you stopped to notice a CAREER OPPORTUNITY advertisement that said a hospital administrator could make as much as $12,000 a year.

“Wow,” you thought to yourself. “This could be it for me.”

How right you were.

Living in a $25-a-month garage apartment at 662 ½ Hampton Street, with eldest son Neil Christopher barely a toddler, daughter Carolyn Bahaja still in her crib and little David Calvin not yet a twinkle in your eye, you enrolled at Southwest Missouri State College. In 1950, after three short years of studying business administration, and thanks to summer classes, Mary’s patience and the GI Bill, you emerged with a bachelor’s degree.

From there you went directly to the hospital administration program at Washington University in St. Louis, which returned you to Springfield for an internship at Burge Hospital in 1951.

Burge was a bustling place at the time, and a perfect learning laboratory for a bright young administrative resident. By 1949, a philanthropic force of nature by the name of Lester Edmund Cox had taken control of the hospital. The place had only 90 beds when you landed. But because of Mr. Cox, a renaissance was underway, and you found yourself squarely in the middle of the action. At least for a while, you did.

In May 1956 — half a century ago — you answered a call to work for the Missouri Department of Health and Welfare in Jefferson City. Nursing home regulations were new to the Show-Me State, and it became your job to apply them. You also were in charge of Missouri’s involvement with the federal Hill-Burton Act, a magnificent boon for community hospitals like Burge because it provided cash grants that allowed them to expand. For nine years, your hand with Hill-Burton helped grow hospitals all over the state.

That fact was not lost on Lester E. Cox. One of his friends, radio magnate Ralph Foster, who knew you from his service with the state’s hospital advisory board, called you one day with a dinner invitation. So you and Mary drove down to Springfield, and along with attorneys Wally Walter and John K. Hulston, you ate and talked. Mr. Cox, a direct man, made it known that he wanted you to “come back home and make the floors shine.”

You brazenly told him that you’d accept his offer to return as administrator of Burge-Protestant Hospital, but on one condition: Charlie Edwards, who was working at Bothwell Memorial Hospital in Sedalia, had to come with you.

Mr. Cox said yes, and you said OK, and on August 1, 1965, you came back to Springfield as administrator of Burge-Protestant.

Brilliant as he was, not even Mr. Cox could have possibly known what a deal he’d made. There was Charlie, a serious, sedate, almost shy sort of fellow who focused on the ledgers, the fiscal nuts and bolts of running a hospital. And there you were, outgoing, gregarious, a people pusher to Charlie’s pencil pusher, the right brain to his left.

Together you were dynamite. That’s what folks who were around then still say about the two of you. You and Charlie came to a hospital that Mr. Cox had brought back from the brink of closing in the 1940s, and together you really made the place hum.

These were the 1960s, the Space Age was in full throttle, and our nation’s technology race against the Russians almost seemed mirrored here at home in a smaller way, as you strove to make Burge-Protestant the better hospital in town with the newest innovations, the best equipment, the most modern facilities, the first with this and that. From then, and on into the 1970s, you helped bring in cobalt treatments for cancer, you pioneered the concept of a mobile coronary care unit, and you launched the Baby Buggy—a mobile intensive care nursery for infants. Even after Mr. Cox passed away in 1968, and the hospital was named in his honor the following year, you and his son, Lester L. Cox, kept forging ahead with ambitious plans.

For all the serious time you put into your work, you never hesitated to make things fun. How many of your peers ever put on bunny ears, or a referee’s outfit, or a lepruchaun’s costume, or, for crying out loud, fishnet panty hose, as goofy ways to boost morale around the hospital? Don’t deny it. You could be a real fruitcake at times, if that’s what you thought was needed to give the troops a lift.

Speaking of crazy, it really makes you smile, knowing what a nut some folks thought you were back in the late ‘70s when you said Cox should build a women’s and children’s hospital in Hester Gibson’s corn field, way out south of town. But see, Cox South worked out fine, right through a change order that added floors to the initial design and turned it into a full-service hospital that’s now about to celebrate its 21st anniversary.

The same year Cox South opened, you retired. On June 28, 1985, you handed over the keys to Charlie Edwards, who became executive administrator, and you became administrator emeritus, which you continue to define by your behavior as meaning “one who still makes rounds because he still cares deeply about this place.”

There are far more places on campus to make rounds today than there were when you stopped making them for a paycheck. Places proudly bearing the names of your benevolent friends — Hulston, Martin, Meyer, Turner, Wheeler. All around CoxHealth, there are still plenty of familiar names on ID tags, too, including that of Steve Edwards, Charlie’s son, who runs South, and who freely admits he’d be a fool not to listen when you drop by his office as you do, with your observations and suggestions.

Yes sir, you are still running this hospital in your head, although you freely admit that you would not trade the joys of retirement for the headaches of managed care and physician relations and inadequate Medicaid reimbursements and, oh, let’s not get into them all.

CoxHealth is in very good hands today, you declare. The men and women who run the place have a smart view of the future, as far as you’re concerned. The Cox Medical Park project that will replace Cox North in a few more years is a good example of that.

Still, you confess that when the bulldozers start to push against the old hospital walls, it’s going to be a bittersweet day. You invested so much of your life there. Your youngest son was born there. You’re only halfway joking when you say you’d like to buy North and keep it going, if only you could win Powerball first.

Proudly, you point out that Springfield is already Luckytown, having CoxHealth as its largest and only locally-governed health care system.

But you’re beyond modest about the role you played in making it so.

“We had outstanding leadership from our board, we had hundreds of great staff, doctors, nurses, technicians, cafeteria people, maintenance folks, food service folks, you name it,” you say. “They’re the ones who made the hospital what it was, and that’s still true.

“I was just fortunate to have a little part in it, myself.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home Support, HPS unveil new facility

CoxHealth Home Support and Home Parenteral Services unveiled their new location in Springfield during a public open house on Tuesday evening.

Visitors and guests toured the facility at 2240 W. Sunset, which houses both Home Support and HPS.

The new two-story building includes a showroom, additional patient consultation rooms and a significantly larger warehouse for the supplies and devices the two groups provide to patients.

Home Parenteral Services provides in-home services such as home infusion, total parenteral nutrition (TPN), enteral nutrition and ostomy supplies. Their staff includes includes pharmacists, registered pharmacy technicians, registered nurses and case managers who are specialists in oncology, parenteral and enteral therapy.

CoxHealth Home Support offers a full line of medical equipment and supplies for patients who need such things as lift chairs, walkers or mobile oxygen therapy systems.

The new facility offers more showroom space for Home Support supplies such as CPAP masks and support frames for patient beds.

Visitors tour the HPS pharmacy as staff members prepare supplies for home infusion and total parenteral nutrition.

The new facility features a large warehouse that will reduce ordering and allow more supplies to be in stock when patients need them. The facility also includes space for future expansion.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Caring for kids beyond medicine

Above: Four-year-old Abigail Phillips tries out a pulse oximeter like the one she’ll wear in surgery during one of Child Life’s Pre-Op Parties. Child life specialist Ashley Norman led Abigail and her parents, Katie and Justin, through what they could expect on the day of surgery. Katie was even able to join Abigail during the OR setup process through CoxHealth’s Family Surgery program.

A few days before her tonsillectomy, 4-year-old Abigail Phillips came to the Pediatrics unit at Cox South for a party that was a bit outside of the typical pre-school social scene. The toys and refreshments were there, but they were paired with an in-depth look at what will happen on the day of her surgery.

On a Thursday evening, Abigail and her parents, Justin and Katie Phillips of Springfield, came to one of the weekly pre-operative parties presented by the staff of CoxHealth’s Child Life department. The events are designed to offer education and help reassure young patients and their families before their procedures. Child life specialist Ashley Norman walked the trio through the surgery process, demonstrating the surgical attire and equipment and taking the whole family on a tour of the operating room.

Abigail and her parents were able to ask questions and see first-hand how the process would work. Katie even planned to don one of Surgery’s “bunny suits” and join Abigail in the operating room as she awaited anesthesia.

Not many hospitals offer that kind of behind-the-scenes access, but it’s possible at CoxHealth because of the work done by the Child Life department. Several child life specialists work with children throughout the hospital in a variety of areas, from pre-surgery education to providing support for patients and their families on the Pediatrics unit.

This month, Child Life is celebrating 20 years of service at CoxHealth. Now, as the field of child life is growing nationally, the department is looking toward the future and seeing an increasing number of young patients.

“Parents may not be seeking services until kids are really sick, so we’re finding ourselves working with more families who have kids in critical situations,” says Rana Post, Child Life coordinator. Over the last 20 years, length-of-stay times have also dropped, meaning that Child Life staffers work with more families than ever before. Post says that increased volume is also raising the profile of Child Life, a great thing for a department whose work is widespread, but not always understood.

“There’s more awareness now, when staff members see a child come into a waiting room, they’ll pick up the phone and call us,” Post says. “They know we’re here to help, not just with pediatric patients, but with any children who come into contact with the hospital system.”

The department’s role

Post has worked in the department for 13 years and she says she regularly encounters co-workers who are unclear on what, exactly, she and her staff do. It happens frequently enough that she jokes about having a sort of five-minute “elevator in-service” speech to sum it all up.

“It can be hard to put it into a nutshell, but basically we offer the psychosocial aspect of health care,” Post says. “We’re seeing what things we can provide for patients and their families that are going to get them through their medical situation.”

Explanations are occasionally required since one of the ways Child Life staff members are most frequently seen is visiting patient rooms with toys and games for children.

“People say we’re the fun ones or the play ladies,” child life specialist Amanda Eddington says. “But there’s a lot more substance to what we do.”

Behind the high-visibility toys, Eddington, Post, Norman and the Child Life team spend their days educating kids and families, helping parents who are coping with a child’s illness and supporting medical staff who are providing care to children.

“Of course, we are also very fun,” Post adds with a grin.

On a typical day, the team begins with patients scheduled for surgery at Cox South, Meyer Orthopedic Center and CoxHealth Surgery Center. They do the final preparation for parents and they facilitate coping for children – anything that’s needed to make the experience as smooth as possible.

“That’s what our role always goes back to: How do I get this individual child through this particular experience and have the best outcome?” Post says. “Is it through supporting staff? Are the parents upset and do they need support? Does the child need a distraction?”
After the surgery preparation, they round on the patients in Pediatrics. They meet with patients and families and assess how the kids are doing and what their goals should be to help them get home as quickly as possible.

Post says a lot of Child Life’s work with patients involves helping children comply with doctors’ orders. For example, patients may need to consume a certain amount of fluids and getting a child to do that can require some creativity. Post recently helped a 3-year-old boy get all of his fluids by making snow cones, with him crushing the ice and choosing his flavors.

“We try to allow children some control,” Post says. “We can offer options, but it’s ultimately up to them to eat or take medication – we offer support to make the process as smooth as possible.”

The support Child Life offers also extends to parents and hospital staff.

“We may touch base with these families three, four or 10 times per day, to see how they’re doing and see what they need,” Eddington says. Child Life staff members serve as an advocate for parents, listening to concerns and offering suggestions. They also support medical staff as they care for children, helping kids stay calm by providing interaction or a distraction.

“We’re always working on how we can best assist a patient or a family,” Eddington says. “Sometimes we’re working with the patient, sometimes the family and sometimes we’re supporting the staff. Sometimes it’s all three.”

A leader in the field

It’s rare for a general hospital to have a dedicated child life staff and in CoxHealth’s case it’s made possible through funding from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Through CMN Hospitals’ support, the department is staffed 77 hours per week and is available to patients 12-14 hours a day. That kind of presence is key to one of the department’s main goals: providing service that goes beyond what one might expect from a children’s unit in a community hospital.

“We really pride ourselves on doing cutting-edge things; the types of things that metro children’s hospitals do,” Post says.

In fact, there are several areas in which CoxHealth’s Child Life department is leading the way in services for children.

When Abigail Phillips went into the OR for her tonsillectomy, her mom was able to come along through Child Life’s Family Surgery Program. The program allows one parent or support person to be present in the OR with their child until they are calm or asleep for their surgery.

It’s an idea that many hospitals are just now coming around to, but the program at Cox has been in place for 15 years.

“We were doing that earlier than a lot of hospitals and we’re seeing more hospitals now who are wanting to do something similar,” Post says. “They’re using our charting, our programming and our education to build their programs.”

In recent years, Post has done presentations about the program in front of national audiences, including at Mayo Clinic.

“When we go to conferences, we find that other hospitals are asking about that program. They want to know about our policies and how we educate our families,” Eddington says. “It’s really cool to be able to have the Family Surgery Program here.”

In addition to sharing their work at conferences, Post and Eddington keep track of what other professionals are doing through the Child Life Council’s online forum, a worldwide network of specialists that tracks issues in the field.

Eddington says the forum is key to problem solving and finding solutions for patients. She recently spoke with a specialist in Florida about a new technique that uses a medication to numb the area before an IV stick. While the medication has never been used at CoxHealth, in Florida it has been successful in emergency rooms. Eddington is currently working with a representative to trial the medication on the seventh floor.

“That’s a big part of our jobs, advocating for children and one of the easiest ways is pain management,” Eddington says.

“We look at family-centered care and the overarching trends so we can address them here,” Post says. “We want to see what’s working in other places and bring it here.”

Technology’s evolving role

Post says that in her 13 years with the department, she’s seen a variety of changes, ranging from the acuity of pediatric patients to the need for more staff and family support. By far, though, the biggest changes have been in technology, on both the clinical side and in Child Life itself.

Educational materials for a variety of medical procedures have to be updated more frequently than ever and the Internet is changing the way specialists reach out to patients. With more patients traveling to Springfield from outlying areas, and more pre-admission interviews being conducted by phone, child life specialists are relying on an online tour created with help from Marketing and Planning. The online presentation covers much of the same information as the live class, presented in an easy-to-understand format that helps orient patients prior to their surgery.

Funding from CMN Hospitals has helped the department add computers and the latest video games on the Pediatrics floor and Eddington says a grant may soon allow the addition of another technology that’s becoming popular with patients: the iPad.

The device’s portability and versatility are proving to be effective in other hospital settings around the country. Post says there are apps that can distract kids during a procedure – helping them hold still during a test, for example – as well as apps that can illustrate procedures with video that will supplement the in-person education Child Life already offers.

“When a child is going for their first CT scan, for example, we can do preparation with photos and videos and then with the same iPad they can play games or look at something distracting to help them hold still for the test,” Eddington says. “The iPad has been very successful out in the field and there are some exciting possibilities with it.”

No matter what technology brings, though, child life leaders say it will only be a more advanced supplement to the basics of what child life specialists offer. They point to one wall in the Child Life office, lined with bins that are filled to the brim with those brightly colored toys that they’re so often seen with.

“Those are our distraction bins; those toys are like our tools, our armor,” Post says. “It’s all about doing anything we need to do to support children. We can talk to kids on their level and put them at ease, which ultimately supports them in getting better and getting to go home.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Golfers: sharpen your skills at free clinic

There are still a few spaces left for CoxHealth’s free golf clinic 8 a.m. – noon, Saturday, March 12. The event will cover chipping, driving, putting, irons and how fitness affects your game.

Attendees will also learn techniques to help prevent injuries, and learn how to increase their flexibility to improve their game. A physician, physical therapist and athletic trainer will present at this clinic.

This free clinic will be held in conference rooms B and C at the CoxHealth Meyer Center, 3545 S. National. To register, call 269-9898 or visit www.coxhealth.com.

CoxHealth nurse presents at national conference

CoxHealth nurse Kim Cash, BSN, RN, delivered the presentation “Creating an Innovative Care Delivery Model” at the Professional Practice Models Conference held at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, Texas last month.

Cash is a nurse manager at Cox South. Her presentation featured the goals, approach and development of the nursing practice model in use at CoxHealth. Cash highlighted how the model is used to align nursing practice throughout a large, integrated health system.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Free workshop helps you gear up for spring cycling season

Experienced cyclists and those who would like to get started can attend the CoxHealth Fitness Centers Bike Maintenance Workshop from 6 – 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 9.

This free, two-hour seminar will include an overall presentation and then allow for hands-on training in specific areas such as chain and tire maintenance and repair, appropriate clothing and equipment, training strategy, and heart rate guidelines.

This program will be held at The Meyer Center, 3545 S. National in Springfield. For more information or to reserve your spot, call 269-3282.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tune in to CMN Hospitals annual radiothon

Listen to the 2011 Radiothon to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at CoxHealth on STAR 92.9, and be a part of making miracles happen on the medical mile.

The STAR 92.9 team will broadcast live, play the area’s favorite music, and share stories and interviews with area families who have been helped by your generous donations to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Last year’s event raised nearly $49,000 for sick and injured children in the Ozarks.

The event will air Thursday, March 3, and Friday, March 4, from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Saturday, March 5, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of CoxHealth is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for sick and injured children living in the Ozarks. All proceeds benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ projects such as the C.A.R.E. Mobile, purchase medical equipment, provide financial assistance to children’s families and more.

CoxHealth underwrites all administrative expenses of the charity locally, so that every dollar raised stays in our community and helps children. For more information on Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or to donate, visit www.coxhealth.com/cmn.

Join CoxHealth for the 23rd annual Special Delivery Baby Affair this Saturday

Whether you’re planning a pregnancy, already expecting, or a brand-new parent – or even a new or expecting grandparent – the 2011 CoxHealth Special Delivery Baby Affair is for you!

Come and go as you like, and enjoy this special event designed with all things baby and parenting in mind. The event is 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Saturday, March 5, in the Cox South West Pavilion (former Outpatient entrance), 3801 S. National. Participants can take advantage of a full day of activities including seminars on infant massage, breastfeeding while working, the popular Dollars and Sense of Having a Baby class, and more.

There will be a maternity fashion show, door prizes throughout the day and displays by merchants and community agencies. With a $2 donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, you get a chance to win a conversion crib, mattress and bedding for your nursery from Bella Baby.

For a complete schedule of events or for more information, call The Women’s Center at 269-LADY, or visit www.coxhealth.com.