Hollie Seeley, North Suburban Medical Center’s new CEO, said she’s seen how hospitals works from multiple vantage points.
“I went into leadership because I’ve worked at the bedside. I think the more we can listen to the people providing the care, the better off we all are. I have built a culture and my priority is to take care of the team and then the team takes care of the patients,” said Seeley.
Seeley took over leadership of the 160-bed Thornton-based hospital in November 2021 after serving as COO at Rose Medical Center in 2018.
A native Coloradoan, Seeley graduated from Green Mountain High School and grew up in the suburbs around the Arvada area.
Seeley entered Air Force Academy as a cadet and was recruited to play on the basketball team and also played on the golf team. One day as she was running to get in shape for basketball she has an asthma attack.
It was a career-path moment.
“Also, when growing up, I took care of a little girl that died of leukemia at age five. It was a career path moment and decided to go into nursing,” said Seeley.
After the Air Force Academy, Seeley went to nursing school at Salem State College and while in school did clinical’s at larger hospitals. She finished her degree at Wright State University in Ohio.
During nursing school, Seeley worked as a tech in the emergency department working part-time and going to school full-time. It was when she fell in love with emergency care.
“I move back to Denver and started as an emergency nurse working at St. Joe’s Denver Health and Children’s Hospital, that is when I became a flight nurse,” said Seeley.
Seeley was COO at Rose Medical Center at the beginning of the pandemic and worked as the interim CEO for four months while the hospital was in full shutdown. What Seeley learned from that experience at Rose Medical Center is that communication is as important then and now.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed from the beginning of the pandemic and now is there is a need for communication. There are so many things changing and were used to it. The policies and procedures around visitations, masks we were evolving through the pandemic, “ said Seeley. “And also, the information coming from the CDC. Constant communication with the physicians, staff and our patients has been imperative with both places.”
The benefits that came out of COVID one thing Seeley learned is the importance of working as a health care system.
“There are different systems in the State of Colorado and we have been more collaborative than we have been before,” said Seeley. “Our lead physicians were on phone calls during the height of the pandemic. We shared information and resources like never before. So that benefit that came out of COVID.”
Seeley said before and at the height of the pandemic, there were a lot of patients. The staff had strategic plans in place with multiple steps to get people moved from one facility to another.
“We had a centralized transfer center that was established and we would then make sure we took more efficient care of patients”
She does not expect COVID’s difficulties to evaporate any time soon.
“ It’s hard right now and I think we’re slightly better,” Seeley said. “I’ve been a nurse now 30 years, it’s as bad as I have never seen it. The demand for care is high. The staff supply is short, especially with this new omicron variant. We are at the peak of needing service and not having enough staff to provide it.”
There is hope, and Seeley said she can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“At the beginning of the pandemic people were fearful especially the clinical providers, I think now it’s more frustration at an ongoing pandemic.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Seeley says staffers saw their friends and neighbors banging pots and pans and howling in support of health care workers and bringing food to health care workers. Their requests today are much more simple.
“I think if you asked anyone at the bedside they would say please get your vaccination,” she said. “Please wear your mask, please be patient help us get to the end. People need that more than anything else.”
Seeley said she thinks COVID will become another flu.
“I think in the future, it will be an airborne illness like the flu. For the next pandemic, we’ll discuss here what to wear and alert the staff just like we do with other contagious illnesses,” she said. “We have several different illnesses in the hospital that require to staff to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), so depending on how the illness spreads we are required to wear different PPE.”
With beds always full of COVID patients Seeley says they had to adjust service with patients that require other elective procedures.
“At the beginning, we went away from a lot of elective procedures and we focused on COVID patient- there was a big mix. But now we have a lot of COVID patients, but it’s not the majority of the hospital, “ Seeley said.
Seeley said people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes, may have delayed care during COVID. They are starting to come in now.
“We have a bunch of people that didn’t get health care for a year or two. They were not taking care of themselves, so we’re seeing longer stays with sicker patients that are non-COVID,” said Seeley. “The biggest barrier is providing all of that care with the amount of staff that we have.”
Daily at North Suburban multiple times of day assess how many beds they have in the emergency room, how many on the floor, and how surgical cases they can do to make sure they have staff to care for them.
Seeley said, “This procedure is a multiple-day occurrence, especially for our chief medical officer and our chief nursing officer. They are very in tune with the care they are providing.
Currently, Seeley says they still see a large population of unvaccinated people as well as delayed care patients.
“Our nurses go in to make an impact and we still feel like we are behind the eight ball,” said Seeley.
Seeley plans for staff shortages, burnout, and retaining staff for 2022.
“We’ve kicked off our campaign of “one team, one goal, no excuses,” said Seeley.
“We are going to focus on our people in 2022. It’s recruitment, retention, and recognition. We are not going to get ahead of it.”
People who went to nursing school before the pandemic started and a lot of them have left.
Seeley said, “They say this is not what I signed up for. I can’t imagine a new grad starting in this situation.”
The plan for Seeley is to focus on the team and do whatever they can to help them be successful.
They going to launch a wellness program and mental health resources that are free for staff.
“We have a lot of fun things coming. We are highly encouraging people to do that and anything we can do to keep them,” said Seeley.
Plans for the future going forward-roots and culture.
“I’m a native, my grandma lived down the street across from Water world, so I spent time in this neighborhood. I have family that went to Thornton High School. Northern Denver is important to me.
The hospital plans are to add a new bed tower, private inpatients beds, shell another floor and a new cardiac cath lab.
“To give you a perspective, 85% of the people that get admitted to North Suburban come through our ER,” said Seeley. “Having good emergency services- especially in the cardiac- it’s important.”
Also, they are partnering with Swedish Medical Center which is one of the premier destinations for stroke in the region.
“We initiate care here, and if it’s appropriate get them to Swedish very fast and but also provide emergency services,” said Seeley.
Another goal of Seeleys, coming from emergency room experience she would like North Suburban to become a destination where people choose to come for their elective procedures as well.
Seeley said “If it’s any minor procedures they can come here. We have a wonderful woman’s unit it’s a model where the family comes in, and they stay in one beautiful room with a view of the mountains for the entire stay. “
“I would like the community to perceive us as a place to come when they’re choosing versus when coming when they need us during emergency care.”