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Hospital strategic plan approved, while facility takes next steps

By Anna Jauhola
While many pieces of Kittson Healthcare’s strategic plan may not be immediately visible to the public, it is officially approved and set into motion.
The Kittson Healthcare board of directors approved the strategic plan during its Tuesday, Oct. 24 meeting, said Andrea Swenson, CEO.
“I think the largest takeaway is it’s not meant to be just a document we create one time and put away,” Swenson said. “It’s approved in this form, but we will tweak it and transform it as needed.”
The strategic plan is meant to be fluid and span over three to five years, she added. It has been shared internally and some of the most important developments include human resources, or HR. She said the entire plan is “HR heavy” considering retention and recruitment of employees is extremely important, along with morale, wages and organizational structure.
“We know if we want to get good services, we need to put a lot of good effort into building the workforce we have,” Swenson said. “So we’re also focusing on trying to make sure we have services and equipment to provide good quality services.”
Recently, Kittson Healthcare employees and contractors have been renovating the former upper level nursing home to house physical therapy services. Swenson said this has been going well and is mostly aesthetic changes, along with equipment for different rooms.
More notably, the facility had to purchase a new X-ray machine. The former machine was close to its end-of-life. This brings to the forefront the goal of creating a capital improvements plan (CIP) and budget. Kittson Healthcare currently works with a company called Agility to catalog equipment to include preventive maintenance and a replacement schedule. However, there is no capital improvements plan or budget in place for replacement.
“It’s a common challenge for smaller rural organizations – how do you keep up with changing times and not impact other things?” Swenson said.
Having a CIP in place will help the organization better prioritize and secure grant opportunities, help steer the Kittson Memorial Foundation in its fundraising and give an overall better idea of how to get where the organization wants to go.
Other main issues addressed in the strategic plan that will show some progress include communication and transparency, culture and morale, and governance.
Swenson said communication within the organization and with the community is a top priority they’ve already been addressing. They hold regular department head meetings, which information is relayed to each department, and send bi-weekly emails to managers sharing updates in each department.
To better communicate with the public, Swenson said transparency is key in giving facts when asked questions, but also updating the website to be user friendly. While the website currently lists services available at Kittson Healthcare, they are not all easily found.
“Right now, our website is difficult for us to use, so it just really doesn’t allow us to use it as a tool to keep people informed,” she said. “Hopefully, at some point in time, people will be able to go to that website and know exactly what we have here.”
Better governance from the board of directors and facility managers was something Swenson said came from community meetings as well. Through the strategic plan, Kittson Healthcare is working to build a more skilled and educated group of leaders and to be transparent with information.
“That was a theme throughout,” she said. “There’s nothing for us to hide in here because we’re patient and community focused. It’s just finding the best way to deliver that information.”
Creating a better culture and boosting morale within the organization has been a huge, ongoing effort. Swenson said she feels it’s going well as staff has been willing to visit with her about questions and concerns, whether good or bad.
“If we have employees that are really dissatisfied, we want to get to the why and understand more about what they’re looking for,” she said. “That’s again where HR really ties in – there were things that we’re not doing well that we need to do better to improve culture.”
Although she feels the culture within Kittson Healthcare is improving, that does not immediately solve the lack of healthcare workers. This remains a nationwide issue, which leads to especially rural areas having to fall back on traveling nurses and CNAs to fill the gaps. It is not their preferred method of providing care within the nursing home and hospital, but it’s necessary.
The bright side is that many of the travel staff working at Kittson Healthcare now has been here for at least a year. Typically, their assignments are six to eight weeks.
“Travel staff choose to work here,” she said. “They like it here, so it’s not a rotating door. It’s not the first option we want to choose financially, but if you can get really skilled, compassionate travel staff that provide really good care, it’s a necessary thing we have to do.”
In an effort to solve this problem, Kittson Healthcare has been attending job fairs in the area and receiving applications from prospective employees.
Swenson hopes the upper level renovations will be complete in December or the new year. At that time, there will be an open house for the public and she will present the strategic plan in more detail.
“I feel like all the pieces are moving together. It’s just some might move faster than others,” she added.
If you’d like to visit about the strategic plan or learn more, Swenson said she is happy to visit. You can call her at 218-843-3612 or email her at andrea.swenson@kmhc.net.

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