Queens and Elmhurst Hospitals’ Coach-in-Chief
||Carol White, Associate Executive Director of Workforce Development, Queens and Elmhurst hospitals
Spend any time with Carol White and her enthusiasm about your skills will get you excited about your potential. She possesses that special characteristic that essentially allows people to recognize the best in other people, making her the ideal person to lead the workforce development program for the approximately 5,800 employees of Elmhurst and Queens Hospital Centers.
White is Associate Executive Director and Chief Learning Officer for Workforce Development, but a more fitting title for her might be “coach-in-chief.”
“The most exciting part of my job is when I see an employee who was apprehensive about a new task coming out of a training workshop with a smile because they ‘get it,’ said White. “I get to see staff grow, master skills and reach career and professional potentials, all the while improving patient services.”
Those results are what make White one of the most effective and respected human resources leaders in the HHC system.
“She understands the changing environment of healthcare and how to help employees adapt, is deeply committed to our mission, and is amazingly effective in supporting HHC’s goal to be a learning organization that deeply cares for its workforce,” said Nancy Doyle, Senior Assistant Vice President for Human Resources and Workforce Development.
White led the team that created a curriculum and plan to integrate three process improvement and team-building programs. Originally taught separately at the Leadership Academy, the three programs are: the Toyota lean approach, a process improvement system known as Breakthrough at HHC; a teamwork system called TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety); and the principles of Just Culture, which call for a work environment that is perceived by all staff to be open, fair and supportive of overall system safety, White’s team developed a curriculum that integrated the programs, teaching staff to use Breakthrough to identify a problem and systematically employ TeamSTEPPS and the principles of Just Culture to explore solutions.
“Since Breakthrough is a performance improvement model where staff owns the process, it is fitting to integrate these programs so that staff views them as complimentary rather than separate and competing priorities,” said Ann Sullivan, MD, Senior Vice President of the Queens Healthcare Network. “This helps staff to understand that these programs have one unifying goal, which is patient centered care grounded in a culture of patient safety.”
The mother of two girls, one who recently graduated from SUNY Geneseoand another a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, White said that the key to her own learning began at home when her children were still very young.
“Both of my daughters had unique needs when they were young,” explained White. “My older daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate and my youngest has a learning challenge.” She said that managing their care not only taught her about navigating the health care and education systems, but also she learned first hand how to appreciate the many different ways that people learn.
“My daughters taught me to appreciate what others have to offer in the way they offer it,” White said. “The fact is that we all face challenges and all learn very differently and those challenges and differences can be opportunities. It’s all these differences that makes life so exciting.”
She said her daughters also taught her the importance of seeing not only the medical provider’s point of view but also the patient’s point of view, a way of thinking that is essential to providing patient-centered care.
“This work illustrates our commitment to patient centered healthcare delivery and collaborative team work,” she said. Recently White was named Elmhurst Hospital’s Patient Safety Champion for her work.
As a TeamSTEPPS Master Trainer and certified in Breakthrough LEAN Green Level, she developed the Queens Health Network’s Leadership Academy for managers and supervisors in 2008. In Fiscal Year 2012, 49 managers and supervisors graduated from the Academy.
White, who lives in Queens Village with Clyde, her husband of nearly three decades, has a BA degree in Biology from Ithaca College and a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University School of Public Health. She has worked for HHC in various roles for 27 years, starting her career in data processing at Elmhurst Hospital Center.
“My brain thinks along the line of systems process–how the process will affect the outcome,” she explained. “I am always trying to figure out how point A is linked to point B and what will be the outcome of that process. It is rewarding to contribute to the outcome of high-quality patient care through staff development, supporting staff to recognize and act on their strengths."