Several former St. Vincent Hospital employees have expressed concern to the Herald about the hospital’s work environment.

The employees described the work environment at the hospital as hostile. Much of the criticism centers around supervision of the nursing staff.

Several former employees said their ideas and concerns were being dismissed and that voicing them put “a target on their backs.”

Jim Yopp, former operating room manager for the hospital who resigned on Jan. 22, said he felt his concerns regarding patient safety and the overall work environment were not being listened to.

Among his safety concerns was obsolete operating room equipment that could possibly be dangerous to patients.

Yopp said he approached St. Vincent CEO Joyce Beck several times to express concern about the work environment and specific concerns about his supervision, but was chastised.

“You try to be a whistle blower, you get in trouble,” he said.

Yopp told the Herald that he decided to quit after he was written up for addressing several of his concerns.

Kelly Doke, former emergency room nurse and electronic health records clinic manager, said she brought a patient-safety issue to her superior in August. When that issue hadn’t been addressed by January, Doke went directly to Beck to discuss her concerns.

She was then written up for violating the chain of command, she said.

She was also told to express safety concerns verbally and not through written means, she added.

Lora Flinn, former clinical director, said she was not given any verbal or written warnings before she was asked to resign.

According to information provided by Doke and Yopp, from December 2012 to the present, about 29 nursing staff have left their positions at the hospital. The hospital has a nursing roster of about 29 people, according to the information. That provides for a turnover rate of around 100 percent in the nursing staff during that time period.

The hospital’s turnover rate for all staff in 2013 was 22.3 percent, according to information provided by community relations director Karen Rinehart. The average turnover rate for most hospitals nationally is 8.7 to 31.7 percent.

When asked, the hospital declined to provide specific turnover numbers for its nursing staff.

Beck told the Herald she had hospital Human Resources Director Cheryl Snider perform an analysis of the hospital’s turnover. That analysis showed that much of the turnover at the hospital was normal, Beck said.

The hospital sees a large amount of turnover because a lot of people take the job right out of college and then move onto a different job within a year or two, said Von Kilpatrick, chief nursing officer. Additionally, she said, factors such as heavy snow and cold temperatures cause some employees to leave rather quickly.

All three former employees also expressed concern about the amount of training that each new hire receives.

Yopp said he spent about a year at the hospital and never received a formal orientation. Doke added that in her seven months at the hospital, she did not receive any kind of formal training or orientation.

Beck and Kilpatrick declined to discuss specific accusations because they concerned personnel matters.

Beck, however, noted that the staff is working on improving the overall culture and climate at the hospital.

One part of that process, Beck said, is a new evaluation process that not only assesses how well an employee does his or her job, but also that person’s behavior and attitude.

The process will reward employees who score well in both categories, but punish those that score poorly.

Beck acknowledged that the attempts to change the hospital’s culture could lead to some issues in the first year. For example, she said, employees who score low on the evaluations likely won’t be happy with the scores.

“I think it will be a tough year, and then it (the hospital) will be on solid ground,” she said.

In terms of employee concerns, both Beck and Kilpatrick said there are plenty of places where employees can go to get concerns addressed.

For example, the hospital has a weekly nursing leadership council that employees can bring concerns to, Kilpatrick said. As part of that council, there is a committee that specifically addresses patient-safety concerns.

Yopp said he was not told of the time or date for the final nursing leadership committee before he resigned.

Kilpatrick defended the chain of command, noting that it allows employees to know where to go with their concerns in order to get them addressed.

“There are plenty of avenues for patient-safety, community concerns,” she said.

When a safety concern is raised, Beck and Kilpatrick said, it is thoroughly explored.

“We don’t take anything lightly here,” Beck said.

The hospital’s employees are also told that they can approach the human resources director if needed, Rinehart said.

Doke, Yopp and Flinn said they felt the community needed to be aware of what was happening at the hospital. They said they have talked to about 10 other former and current employees with similar concerns and are considering next steps to get those concerns addressed.

“We’re worried about this community. We have roots here,” Flinn said. “This is our hospital.”

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