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Lights, camera, Mercy

Mercy Hospital, an EMHS member located in Portland and surrounding communities, has faced tough challenges in recent years, like many hospitals in Maine and the nation. But if you look beyond the headlines, you’ll see a thriving community hospital moving forward. You’ll see a dedicated group of people with brilliant ideas, a strong work ethic, and an uncanny ability to drown out the noise of the cynics.

“The credit belongs to the employees, the dedicated medical staff, those who stuck with us during the hard times and refused to let their hospital fail,” reflects Charlie Therrien, EMHS senior vice president and Mercy Hospital president.

It’s only been a year since Mercy’s impressive financial turnaround, but early signs are positive. Already, its leaders have found encouraging opportunities to improve the hospital’s revenue stream by garnering ideas and expertise from frontline staff, finding process efficiencies, and taking a hard look at things like vendor contracts. The bulk of Mercy’s financial pressure stems from operating two hospital campuses: one on State Street and the other on Fore River Parkway. Mercy plans to file a letter of intent later this year that will notify the state of its plan to consolidate both campuses to the Fore River location.

Sticking around through the turnaround
Much of Mercy’s turnaround work, still ongoing, means deviating from the way things have always been done—and change can be hard. Yet despite working in Portland’s competitive healthcare market where there are many employment opportunities, Mercy employees remain committed to their hospital.

Brian Van De Water, RN, BSN, nurse manager in the Fore River Surgical Unit, and father to 10-year old twins, spent much of his career working in large teaching hospitals across the country. Brian quickly found a sense of community when he arrived at Mercy. “I took a pay cut when I came here, but what I got in return was a place where I feel valued and needed—I can do my job better at Mercy.” Brian adds that the culture at Mercy allows him the autonomy and resources to engage his staff in designing better ways to deliver care for their patients.

Bette Neville, RN, MSN, Mercy vice president of Nursing and Patient Care Services, remembers when she came to Mercy in 2003. “There was something distinctly different about this hospital and the people who work here.” When she attends monthly orientations for new nurses, she wants to share that same feeling with them. “When our staff comes into work, they put their hearts into everything they do. It’s important that we, as managers and leaders, build supportive relationships within the Mercy culture because it translates to better patient care.”

Mercy-ad-filming-(3-of-3).jpgSpreading the word
As Mercy prepares for the next phase—growing its business—the hospital is directing its efforts into engaging the community and reestablishing its image. “Great care has always been provided here at Mercy, we just need to do a better job letting everyone know,” says Charlie. That is why Mercy, with help from the EMHS Office of System Communications, is starting that conversation with a new marketing campaign.

Jon Hutter, EMHS director of brand and marketing, explains the sentiment behind the messaging. “This is about positioning Mercy as stable, reliable, and an important part of the community. We’re building on the idea, ‘rely on Mercy,’ which is intended to evoke that stable force in healthcare, and in people’s lives, during trying times. We’ve been doing it for 100 years. Expect us to be around for at least 100 more.” A production company recently filmed Mercy providers for television and print advertisements, social media campaigns, and website promotional materials.

Melissa Skahan, Mercy vice president of mission integration and executive director of the McAuley Residence, adds, “What people may not realize, and what we want to tell them, is that the majority of their care can be done with us. We deliver very personalized care, private patient rooms, and individualized patient-centered nursing care—our patient satisfaction results are off the charts.”

Mercy-ad-filming-(1-of-3).jpgMelissa says that the marketing will bring more attention to the hospital; then patients will see for themselves what she’s known all along, “Every day, Mercy employees connect to the mission through their actions—they extend kindness and generosity to patients and their families. For us, it’s not only about the people that we serve; it’s about the people we serve with.”

You can hear the affection for Mercy in the stories of their patients. Someone will tell you about the nurse who held their family together during their worst days, or proudly rattle off the name of every family member born at the hospital. What makes Mercy so special is that during the last century it has stayed true to its primary goal to provide clinically excellent, compassionate care to all. It will no longer be defined by its external challenges, but rather by its internal strengths, which Mercy employees know will win out.