In most organizations, “ignore the employer” isn’t exactly sound advice. But at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans (CHNOLA), Vice President of Human Resources and Administrative Services Jill Fragoso leverages that unlikely approach as part of her contribution to making CHNOLA a top 25 children’s hospital by 2025.
And it’s a realistic goal. “We were ranked in two specialties in US News & World Report for the first time in 2022,” Fragoso said. “We are number 32 nationally in urology, and number 49 nationally in nephrology. We’re also the Gulf South’s only children’s hospital to rank among Newsweek’s ‘World’s Best Specialized Hospitals for Pediatrics’, two years in a row—number 67 worldwide, and number 34 in the US.”
On the patient-care side, CHNOLA achieved “Magnet” designation for the first time in 2022. “That was a four-year journey, during which we created a culture of safety, put educational opportunities in place, solidified our framework, and continued cultivating our next generation of leaders,” Fragoso says.
The hospital also established a policy of daily operational briefings. “We meet virtually with about one hundred leaders across the organization—clinical leaders as well as all senior directors—to keep everyone informed of day-to-day developments throughout the hospital.”
CHNOLA’s Thrive Kids program continues to benefit the community, as well. “We placed nurses and social workers in Jefferson parish schools, and they can often refer students to seek medical help—such as the need for hearing aids or glasses—more readily than before,” she says.
Fragoso encourages diversity of thought, in many forms. “In healthcare HR, strict adherence to policy, and the use of defined roles, is common. But at Children’s, we want to cultivate diversity; and not just in the DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] aspect. Sometimes, we’ll take a chance with new grads and place them in unexpected roles. We also strive to engage our employees and reward them for their efforts,” Fragoso says.
And that’s where “Ignore the Employer” comes in. “Many of the people working in our facilities are employees of other companies, but we want them to feel like part of the CHNOLA family,” Fragoso explains. “So, we strive to ‘ignore the employer.’ That means treat everyone the same, regardless of who signs their paychecks. Contract employees and volunteers are offered the same gifts, perks, celebrations, and awards as our own employees.”
For example, CHNOLA’s winter holiday gift to all included an insulated, backpack cooler and an assortment of passes for local activities—half-day bike rides, cooking classes, brunch for two on the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River. Additionally, the Backstage Magic program, which recognizes workers in security, food service, and other behind-the-scenes jobs, provided the staff with nearly 250 pairs of shoes in 2022, along with bus passes, meal vouchers, and other perks.
Novel thinking permeates CHNOLA’s recruitment strategies, as well.
“We are joining the virtual career fairs of the top 20 undergraduate nursing programs in the country, but we’ve also initiated a partnership with Loyola University. This allows nursing students to work for us during the summer as nurse techs, while CHNOLA covers their on-campus housing,” the VP says.
She added that CHNOLA is expanding its range of technologist programs that offer nursing and allied health students the chance to gain some real-world experience prior to passing their board exams.
“To combat the nation’s critical nurse shortage, Jill has implemented creative retention programs and forged critical university partnerships to attract early career professionals to CHNOLA,” says Steven Davis, head of consulting, WilsonHCG. “She was the first HR executive at the LCMC Health System to embrace an RPO relationship, identifying the opportunity to leverage best practices to enhance her top-performing team.”
As a long-time athlete (i.e., three Ironman triathlons, ultramarathons, and other events), Fragoso appreciates the need for coaching and approaches her team the same way. “I focus on their strengths, offer them real-time feedback, and maintain an optimistic attitude at all times. I also make sure they know there are pathways for advancement, and that I’ll help them along the way.”
Fragoso and her team also encourage feedback from employees and providers, by way of nDorse, a recognition app used across the six hospitals in the system.
“They can provide positive remarks, in real time, about anyone they see demonstrating leadership, advocacy, or any other aspect of CHNOLA’s values. The app also includes nomination forms for our team member of the month, provider of the quarter, and leader of the quarter,” Fragoso says. “It’s been a tremendous success; we’ve seen over twenty thousand ‘nDorsements’ over the past five years.”
Feedback can take many forms, though, and Fragoso promotes a virtual “safe space” for CHNOLA’s employees. “Our ‘BSafe’ online tool enables employees and the public to anonymously report harassment, safety, or other issues, and these events will be addressed by the proper leaders. And if people feel marginalized, it’s a simple way to be heard without fear of retaliation,” she says.
Fragoso’s current sport is trail running—a combination of running and power hiking. “As you get older, you need to adapt to your own changes, and in trail running, there is a motto: ‘Take what the trail gives you,’ she says. Basically, it means that no matter what is going on around you, keep moving forward, and it takes as long as it takes.”
“I’ve learned to apply that to the healthcare business,” she continues. “Sometimes there isn’t adequate funding for programs, there is a lack of capital funding, or competing priorities, and so we may not take any action at all. But the key to success is to assess what is going on, and either independently, or with your crew, figure out the next right decision. Keep making forward progress, however messy it may initially look, and keep making the next best decision. Before you know it, results are happening!”
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