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Last updated: Thu. May. 22, 2014 - 09:11 am EDT

DeKalb Health director seeks best for all patients

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At a glance

Name: Eric James

Age: 39

Title and employer: Director of inpatient services, DeKalb Health

Time in current position: Hired May 2013

Education and professional experience: 2009 associate degree in nursing, IPFW; licensed to practice in Indiana; 1992 U.S. Army Corps of Engineering; Army, paratrooper/combat lifesaver; civil engineering technology; Evergreen Aviation, supervisor; Lutheran Hospital emergency room, registered nurse/charge RN; Jay County Hospital emergency room, emergency RN; Lutheran Hospital emergency room, patient care associate

AUBURN — Eric James, director of inpatient services at DeKalb Health, wants to do what's best for everyone he encounters.

That's why, one day, he helped move a piano from the hospital's lobby to the third floor to make a patient's day a little better.

“The only thing she talked about was she wanted to get back home and play the piano,” said James, 39. “We've got a piano in the lobby. We rolled it into the elevator, went up to the third floor. We pulled her out of her room, and she played the piano for us.

“You don't get that in a lot of places. I don't know, but I think if I've been in any other facility and I rolled the piano out of the lobby and up to the floors, I'd probably be reprimanded somewhat for it. Our philosophy is, ‘What could it hurt?' That's what she wants. That's what we are going to do.”

The ability to do things out of the norm was one of the things that drew James from being an emergency room nurse at a larger hospital in the region to DeKalb Health. It's also one of the reasons he has become a valuable employee since arriving in May last year.

“You don't see Eric very much in his office,” Chief Nursing Officer Donna Wisemore said. “He is out and about and in patients' rooms and asking them how their care is and working with the nurses. He doesn't care to roll up his sleeves and get right in there to help the nurses.

“He's just a natural leader. He has those qualities. He has the ability to build trust. The staff trusts him. They are loyal. They respect him. I think a true leader is able to do all of those things. Eric has done that.”

Along with moving into a management position, James was attracted to DeKalb because of its community-first approach. It was also a hospital where he could help facilitate a better working environment for the employees.

“Auburn is still the community's hospital. Every decision that is made is based on the impact to the surrounding community,” James said. “That's a little bit harder to do in a much larger facility.

“There is a big-business sense (at DeKalb), but at the same time incorporating the community and the employees. There is a lot of employee input here.”

Part of what attracted James to DeKalb was also one of his biggest obstacles when he arrived.

He was used to a numbers-driven workplace that had a quicker pace than the one he moved into at DeKalb.

“I had to really slow things down,” James said of how he operated. “I wanted to bring that same type of pace, almost instantaneous type of results. Not that there is not a sense of urgency. I think they are a little more cautious here.

“It is about the patients in a community-based hospital. It's the difference. They take extra steps. They take a glance at things a couple of more times to make sure that everything is right. They truly want to do what is right. It is not a matter of turning things over. I guess it's more quality over quantity is the best way to put it.”

James also saw a need to boost the morale of the nurses when he arrived at DeKalb.

It was a process that took time because he was an outsider, not just because he was coming from a different hospital and lives in Bluffton, but because he was the first male to be in the leadership position at DeKalb, he said.

“There was an intimidation factor,” James said. “I don't know why. I don't feel I come across in that nature. Maybe they never had a male in charge.”

He holds meetings to go over how patients are being taken care of, and if there is a problem, it is addressed at the meeting with employees sharing ideas on how to make things work better and then implementing the changes.

“We don't accept, ‘We will take a look at it,' I got that a lot when I got here,” James said. “Let's have a meeting where we are going to look at it and come back with results.

“It has done a lot for the entire facility as far as people taking accountability for their department and going through the process to figure out what is going wrong, where are we going to fix it and how are we going to fix it. It has worked out well.”

James still needs to slow down at times, but Wisemore wouldn't want him to operate differently.

“He's a go-getter, that's for sure. He's full speed ahead,” Wisemore said. “Sometimes I have to say to Eric, ‘Sometimes your nurses need to learn.' But what a great thing in Eric that it's never status quo for him. It is always we can do better.

“As a chief nursing officer, I could not ask for anything better than that in any of my directors.”

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