Atrium Medical Center president wants hospital ‘destination of choice’

Michael Uhl recently was named president of Atrium Medical Center in Middletown.

With more than 1,500 people in full-time, part-time and on-call positions, the full-service hospital and Level III Trauma Center is Middletown’s second largest employer and is among the largest employers in Warren and Butler counties.

This week, Uhl answered questions about his vision for the hospital’s future.

Q: Talk about your history with the hospital and why as a former ER nurse you wanted to be the hospital president?

A: I’ve always had an interest in helping people, which is why during college I worked as a paramedic and firefighter while studying to become a nurse. After graduation, once I started working as a nurse at the former Middletown hospital, I learned more about the business operations of the hospital. It was really Carol Turner, Atrium’s former president, who first approached me about entering management to become the nurse manager of the hospital’s emergency department at the time, and opened my eyes to exploring the business side of health care. She saw that potential and encouraged me to take that step in my career. It’s ironic now that I’m succeeding Carol in this position, and I hope that from starting out at the bedside, I continue in this new role as president of Atrium to put patients and their experiences first.

Q: What are your top priorities in your new position?

A: My top priorities for Atrium Medical Center, as part of the larger nonprofit Premier Health system, are centered around the system’s mission to improve the health of the communities we serve. To that end, we will continue to expand and grow services in Southwest Ohio, with a focus to be on the forefront of innovation of services, technology and quality of care. Ultimately, my goal is to make Atrium Medical Center a destination of choice. That means everyone has a positive experience when they’re here including patients, as well as employees, medical staff and volunteers.

Q: You’re succeeding Carol Turner, who had a more than 36-year career at the Middletown hospital. Will her values and practices impact your leadership style?

A: It is quite an honor and privilege to be able to succeed Carol Turner because of her example and because I have given her a lot of credit over the years in terms of having that conversation with me to consider health care management as an option. She always wanted to make sure we had a caring environment from all aspects, not only from taking care of the patients that come use our services, but also from the workplace perspective and that people feel a sense of belonging in the organization. Also, she felt it was important that all staff feel ownership in how the organization moves forward and feel part of a team. She was always open to feedback and input and really wanted to hear the voice of the employees and I am going to carry those traits on as well. Our management is being asked not only to think creatively about ongoing ways to improve services, but also to find ways to create a positive work environment.

Q: Atrium is the city’s second largest employer. What role does the hospital play in the overall success of the city?

A: As the hospital serving the City of Middletown, while also happening to be one of the city’s largest employers, Atrium Medical Center takes its role in the community seriously. As a health care provider it’s our role to help improve the wellbeing of residents and also help return our sick patients to health. We also have an interest in the economic vitality of the region, which is why we partner with other organizations that share our goal to improve the community’s health and make an impact. For example, last year we partnered with Community Building Institute Middletown and supported the baby pantry at the Parent Resource Center, which the Community Building Institute operates at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center in Middletown. Our support of the baby pantry helps provide diapers, bottles and other essentials to Middletown area parents so that instead of worrying about how to make ends meet for enough diapers, those parents can focus on their child’s health and education needs.

Q: Did you think you’d see the day when hospitals are lined up and down the interstate?

A: Nobody could have predicted the changes we’ve already seen in the health care industry or what changes are still to come. As long as Atrium Medical Center puts the focus on the patients who choose us for services first, we believe we can’t go wrong.

Q: Reports say that healthcare professions will remain in high demand in the years to come. Are you surprised by that?

A: Many health care professionals feel called to work in this profession to care for others, and the changing health of our communities requires passionate and highly skilled health providers. It does not surprise me that healthcare professions will remain in high demand due to the aging overall population. In addition, as the industry shifts to provide care that emphasizes the quality of services provided and not necessarily emphasizing the number of people treated, it creates new roles in health care for care management and disease prevention to ensure people are receiving care at the most efficient point of access. For example, that might mean reaching someone and helping them stay healthy at home with help of home care providers so emergency care can be avoided.

Q: How is Atrium evolving services to meet the needs of the region?

A: Atrium is excited to be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017 and proud to continue to evolve to meet the health needs of the local community with new services like senior friendly emergency care and a natural birth program. The Natural Beginnings Birth Center started deliveries in December. It’s the first natural birth center in the Cincinnati market to be located in an acute hospital setting and was a new service added in response to demand from area mothers. Next is the opening this spring of the new geriatric emergency unit within Atrium’s existing Emergency Trauma Center, which will provide services to adults 65 and older to improve their experience in the emergency department.

Q: The fact that you started your career as a nurse, what message does that send to other employees?

A: Similar to how Carol provided some coaching to me as I considered stepping up to a nursing management role, I want everyone at the hospital to feel like they contribute to the success of the organization and can take their career in multiple directions within Premier Health because of the variety of opportunities the system offers. That could mean entering a management role or expanding their clinical career, such as a nurse becoming a nurse practitioner.

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