Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2017 Honorees
Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the unsung heroes of the health care field: our Excellence in Nursing honorees, chosen by our panel of distinguished nursing professionals.
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As UPMC’s chief quality officer, Tami Minnier loves overhearing someone talk about a service she helped improve.
“That’s what it’s all about — making things better,” says Minnier, 55, who lives in Oakmont with her teenage son. “When you can hear those stories, you know you made a difference for a patient. That’s what I love to hear.”
In her role, Minnier is responsible for quality and safety at UPMC. She oversees the Wolff Center at UPMC, dedicated to quality of care, improvement, and safety. She also is executive director of the Beckwith Institute, a $15 million dollar foundation supporting innovation in care delivery and shared decision making.
Minnier started thinking about how to best care for others in her childhood. Her father suffered a heart attack when she was just two months old, and she grew up admiring the physicians and nurses who cared for him.
She earned her BSN and master’s degree in nursing administration from Pitt’s main campus.
“I always knew I had an interest in leadership,” she says. “I recognized how broken the systems and processes were within the nursing world. I knew as a nurse leader, I could make it better for more people.”
Minnier worked in senior management at Bradford Hospital, but knew she wanted to branch out. She took a position as associate vice president of geriatrics at Shadyside Hospital (prior to UPMC acquiring the property), and went on to become the hospital’s chief nursing officer.
“That was really where I became completely energized and focused on the concepts of quality,” she says. “We had great board leadership. They were very passionate about quality, and very passionate about what was happening across the country.”
That board included Don Wolff, for whom the Wolff Center is named.
She’s worked at her current job for the past 11 years. Susan Christie Martin, senior director at the Wolff Center, calls Minnier a “precious resource” in her field.
“She is attentive and inspirational, and people want to be part of that,” she says. “She’s like the cement to the system. At the bottom of all things, you’re going to find her there.”
Minnier pays close attention to her employees and is invested in them as people as well as professionals, which Martin says translates into better patient care.
“It sends the message that we can do better and we will do better,” she says. “Our patients are why we are here, period. When that’s clear … the team is not afraid to speak up, push the envelope or drive people outside of their comfort zones.”
Minnier says much of the work she does is simply about listening to the patient.
“Patients have to be heard,” she says. “You actually have to pause and have a conversation with a patient and say, ‘What is it that you want here? What are your goals? What are you thinking about?’’’
Minnier has been part of the implementation of many practices aimed at improved patient care during her career. The Wolff Center worked with Dr. Dan Hall, affiliated with the VA and UPMC, to begin using a risk assessment index for frailty to assess how well prepared a patient is to physically undergo a surgical procedure. Screening started two years ago with patients having elective surgery and resulted in the development of UPMC’s Centers for Pre-Surgical Care.
“My job is to advocate for this work, to remove barriers, and to get the right leaders at the table to support what the clinical team is attempting to accomplish,” Minnier says. “It’s been that kind of alignment and collaboration that has allowed projects like this and so many others to be really successful.”
A recent project involves educating the public about adding emergency contacts to their smartphones that don’t require unlocking to access. The initiative stems from an incident in which a 19-year-old man who had been in a motorcycle accident arrived at a hospital with no identification. The young man died, and due to several circumstances, the family was not able to see him until he was at the funeral home. Following through on such problems can prevent them from happening again, Minnier says.
That thinking also led to the creation of Condition H, a rapid response team patients or families can call when they feel they don’t understand fully what’s going on with their care. Minnier helped launch the initiative when she was at Shadyside, and it has since been implemented in hospitals across the country.
Making those kinds of differences matters most to Minnier, who is a firm believer that at the end of the day, nice matters.
“You can be an effective, strong, female leader and still be nice and still show you care, and it has nothing to do with being weak, or whatever the historical stereotypes have been,” she says. “How you treat people comes back to you tenfold.”
Maria Flavin (Carlow University)
Kirstyn Kameg (Robert Morris University)
Suzan Kardong-Edgren (Robert Morris University)
Ann Mitchell (University of Pittsburgh)
Khlood Salman (Duquesne University)
Torrie Snyder (Duquesne University)
Debra Wolf (Chatham University)
Lore Wright (Community College of Allegheny County)
Brian Berry (Excela Health)
Betsy George (UPMC Presbyterian)
Kathleen Godfrey (University of Pittsburgh/Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC)
Peggy Jenkins (St. Clair Hospital)
Cynthia Mueller (Allegheny Health Network West Penn Hospital)
Cynthia Palombo (UPMC Shadyside)
Lisa Rooney (Heritage Valley)
Mary Burgunder (UPMC Home Healthcare)
Susan Hoolahan (UPMC Passavant)
Bobbi-Jo Skurko (UPMC Seneca Place)
Tammi Lining (Allegheny Health Network)
Special Thanks to Our Judges
Mary Ellen Glasgow