Growth prompts management restructure for Vanderbilt LifeFlight

Growth prompts management restructure for Vanderbilt LifeFlight

24-Jan-2017 Source: Vanderbilt LifeFlight

Exponential growth over the last several years is fueling a management restructuring for Vanderbilt LifeFlight, which will increase the program’s director or management positions to better handle current and future growth.

Vanderbilt LifeFlight, which has more than 175 employees, provides critical care air transport, as well as ground ambulance and event medical services. It has seven helicopter bases, one airplane base, eight ground ambulances, an emergency communications center, and provides event medical services at more than 700 events a year. All air operations are provided by Air Methods Corporation. All medical services for air operations are provided by Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). All ground transport services are provided by VUMC.

“The same management structure has been in place for several years and has not kept up with the growth that we’ve experienced over the last 10 years,” said Stephan Russ, M.D., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at VUMC and associate chief of staff for Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital. “Lifeflight is nationally known for its attention to detail both from an aviation and medical care perspective, and we want to continue to have a management structure that supports that degree of focus on safety and outcomes.”

Jeanne Yeatman, RN, BSN, MBA, EMT, associate nursing officer, Emergency Services, approached the Owen Graduate School of Management for their help in guiding the restructure and to make recommendations.  She said two students undertook the extensive project with the aim of  no manager having an excessive span of responsibilities.

Matt Sternberg and Ashley Costello were recruited to help research the reorganization project. Sternberg is a fellow with the Center for Health Care Innovation and a former health care consultant with Deloitte. Costello is an emergency and critical care nurse, and both are 2018 MBA candidates with the Owen Graduate School of Management. Both spent countless hours researching other critical care transport programs and interviewed current staff and managers to help develop the framework for the new structure.

“We are very fortunate to have the exceptional resources that the Owen Graduate School provided,” Yeatman said. “Matt and Ashely have worked very hard with our executive leadership team and their research and final recommendations will lay the groundwork for our future.”

“LifeFlight is growing quickly and, like any rapidly growing business, is experiencing unidentified growing pains,” Sternberg said. “Our team looked at the current organizational structure and recommended how the optimal go forward structure would look. In undertaking this endeavor, we talked with as many team members at LifeFlight as possible in addition to conducting academic research. We interviewed over 20 individuals and uncovered incredible insights. The first and most important of these was the commitment of the LifeFlight team, both to each other on an individual level and to the greater goals of LifeFlight in general.”

“Aside from the immediate organizational recommendations, the biggest win from this project was uncovering the many ideas that the team has about ways to grow LifeFlight moving forward,” Costello added. “Our team is excited to continue the partnership between LifeFlight and the Owen Graduate School of Management in order to explore these other ideas and continue LifeFlight’s success in the future.”

The recommendation made by the team was an attempt to balance span of control with decentralized decision-making.

“Backed by what we heard from the interviews as well as the academic research, we wanted to push down decision-making rights within the organization to empower individuals to make better tactical decisions while freeing up leadership time to focus on the strategy moving forward,” Sternberg said.

The result:

  • The current program director for LifeFlight will be divided into two new roles – a director of air medical transport and a director of ground operations and communications. The two program directors will report to Yeatman, the Associate Nursing Officer of Emergency Services.
  • The management for air operations will be divided into two positions – an East and West air medical manager, with each base manager (chief flight nurse) reporting to the regional manager. The regional managers will report to the director of air medical transport.
  • A new position of ground transport manager will be added, and Event Medicine management will be split into two different managers – an operations manager and a business manager. All three of those positions, and the current communications manager, will report up to the director of ground operations and communications.
  • A new educator position will be added for ground EMS, event medicine and communications.  That position will report to the director of ground operations and communications.

A national search will be conducted for the positions with the hope of having them filled and the new management structure in place within 60 days.

“We are a nationally recognized and highly respected program and we are looking for leaders that can work within the institution vision and provide exceptional employee support as we continue to grow and look to the future,” Russ said. “We are very grateful for the hard work that Matt and Ashley put into this project. Our restructuring comes at a crucial time in health care, and our staff needs the very best support and management that we can provide.”

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