How Accreditation is Transforming Wood County Health Department

Accreditation Works!

In Wisconsin Rapids, a culture of continuous quality improvement is no longer just another thing: ‘It’s a part of everything, as it should be’

BY SUSAN KUNFERMAN, RN, MSN, CPM

Many things have changed at the Wood County Health Department in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., since becoming accredited in May 2013. One of the most significant changes we’ve seen is how the culture of quality improvement has become ingrained within our staff and throughout our department. As an administrator, this transformation has been fun to watch. I think back to discussions about how staff simply couldn’t do one more thing. Plates were already overflowing; how were we going to make this work? That all seems so long ago and I believe we’ve turned the corner and found a place where quality improvement (QI) isn’t another thing: it’s a part of everything, as it should be.

This revelation hit me when I was reviewing a list of the QI projects that employees completed in 2015. It was a long list — a very long list. Some of the outcomes from those projects are truly amazing and undertaking those initiatives has improved every program area in our agency in some way. For example, in our oral health program we reduced product waste due to expiration by 79 percent, and the percentage of mothers receiving at least one successful breastfeeding peer counseling contact went from 17 percent to 70 percent.That doesn’t mean that each project ended with 100 percent success. That certainly isn’t the case. But even those that didn’t go the way we expected helped us with our journey toward becoming the most effective and most efficient agency possible while providing excellent customer service. It also helped us become more comfortable with the option to “abandon” or “adapt.” Both are now very important in our world.

I look forward to our continued growth as an agency as we experience the many benefits that come with the public health accreditation process.

The author is Director and Health Officer of the Wood County Health Department in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Wood County Health Department was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on May 30, 2013.

About “Accreditation Works”
“Accreditation Works” is a new feature designed to showcase the benefits national accreditation brings to public health departments and communities while also providing insight into accreditation’s broad impact. To support this feature, PHAB-accredited health departments are invited to contribute 300-to-600-word narratives describing how their health department has changed as a result of going through the accreditation process. Collectively, these stories serve as first-hand testimonies of how PHAB accreditation benefits health departments and their communities. Submissions may be emailed to tnicolaus@phaboard.org.

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