When Janet Thompson describes her job in health care risk management, she draws upon her love of beaches for an analogy.
“It’s like facing the ocean and deciding which wave you will ride today,” Janet, director of risk and insurance for our Richmond, explains. “You do it, knowing it may take you under more than once, but you get right back up and do it again. Along the way in risk management, you see the wide expanse of the beauty of how we touch our patients, their families and our team members when they are most vulnerable and in their time of need.”
Janet, who has worked in the field for 27 years, reflects on her role as we observe Health Care Risk Management Week.
“As risk leaders, we must be the invisible but indestructible support of our teams,” she explains. “Our team members are tired and take the brunt of societal stresses and the aggression that may come with it. But they still prioritize the patients’ clinical needs and deliver complex care for optimal outcomes.”
Risk managers need to be objective and impartial in their investigations and while reviewing the care provided. Their role is to identify gaps in the process that may result in harm and collaborate for improved processes to close that gap.
“You must be skilled in providing feedback that is effective but not judgmental,” Janet says. “To be successful in risk, you must also have extensive knowledge of both state and federal regulatory requirements and best practices across the entire health care continuum. And finally, you need the confidence to speak up and make suggestions that are not always easy or welcome to hear. Each day though, you can find the reward in knowing you have helped someone navigate a difficult situation.”
Janet enjoys the fact that every day is different and never predictable.
“You are required to critically think and provide guidance equally when awakened at 2 a.m. or sitting in a board room at 10 a.m.,” she says.
Janet provides guidance on a multitude of topics. On any given day, she may be investigating a serious safety event, reviewing a medical power of attorney document for a correct legal surrogate decision maker, facilitating a safety conference to prevent a patient from assaulting staff, coordinating insurance coverage for a new venture or conducting environmental rounds to ensure facility integrity.
Risk managers review hundreds of safety event reports to prioritize follow up and actions required. They also advise executive teams on emerging risks across the organization and noted trends in serious safety events and patient complaints that could escalate into claims or suits. Most importantly, they interact across all disciplines and are seen as trusted advisors.
As they tackle new and challenging scenarios, risk managers can always count on their fellow risk managers.
“We’re in constant communication and sharing best practices,” Janet explains. “We also act as a confidential sounding board for our peers and others.”
Overall, Janet enthusiastically endorses risk management as a challenging and rewarding career choice.
“Your skillset will constantly evolve your career as the health care challenges are dynamic.”
Learn about the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.