‘Making a Great Health Department Better’ is Accreditation’s Rallying Callin Wisconsin
By Susan Uttech, MS
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, is a large organization with more than 400 employees. Because of the department’s large size, staff don’t cross paths with one another (outside of their program area) very often, if at all. Staff are hired as specific program experts but aren’t exposed to the breadth and depth of the Division’s work. However, going through the accreditation process changed that.
When we began the accreditation journey we formed 12 Domain Teams. Each team was made up of a supervisor to lead the team and 6-8 staff who represented a cross section of the division, such as tobacco prevention staff working with radiation prevention staff; staff working on immunization with lead prevention staff and abatement experts; and vital records staff working with emergency response experts, just to name a few examples. The Domain Teams worked off and on together for two years focusing on a common purpose: to become recognized as a highly functioning health department and to keep calm and get accredited (one of our internal slogans used to motivate staff). Having this laser focus and common purpose strengthened and united staff across the Division like nothing before; many staff wanted to be part of making a great health department better (the other internal slogan used to motivate staff).
As the Domain Teams looked for evidence it became clear where we had strengths and where we had weaknesses. We had to reach beyond our comfort zones to find evidence that other programs had, including staff who weren’t involved on a Domain Team. This interaction between staff helped to break down program silos. Staff developed a shared appreciation and respect for each other as coworkers as they worked together and got to know each other better. Camaraderie, laughter, and a sense of accomplishment are by-products of our accreditation journey and a lasting benefit for our organization. Many staff have said they are now more naturally inclined to work together on Division-wide initiatives.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, in Madison, Wisconsin, was awarded national accreditation through PHAB on August 21, 2018.
About the author: Susan Uttech, MS, is Public Health Standards Director at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact her at [email protected].
Other benefits gained as a result of going through the accreditation process:
Shared focus and understanding of the importance of the six required Plans, which serve as the bedrock for a highly functioning health department
Shared language related to quality improvement
Shared understanding about the importance of the customer
Recognition for our accomplishment by the Department Secretary