Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine Service Line Jim Wescott has built his career in the ED and now he’s bringing his lively, passionate, and innovative leadership to the entire Emergency Service Line at Northwell Health. We sat down with Jim to see the ED through his eyes:
How did you get your start at Northwell Health?
I started at Southside Hospital ED in 2004 as a Staff Nurse where I stayed for 14 years. Shortly after that, Southside Hospital became a part of Northwell Health. From there, I progressed with the health system from Staff Nurse, to Charge Nurse, to Preceptor, and in 2012, I became an Assistant Nurse Manager. In 2015, I became a Nurse Manager and was integral in the expansion of the emergency department. Under my leadership, the ED progressed from an 11,000 capacity ED to 30,000. After construction, that number reached 60,000! Now, I’m Assistant Director of Emergency Medicine Service Line.
How did you know that coming to Northwell Health was the right career move for you?
I knew immediately that Southside ED was for me on my first walk through in 2004. There was a buzz and energy that was occurring in this small ED. I hadn’t even had an official interview and I was ready to jump in and start working! When Southside Hospital integrated with Northwell Health, the system did an amazing job of committing to projects and improving processes. It’s such an innovative health system! There’s just this incredible commitment to moving forward at Northwell Health and I believe it’s because the senior executive level has a passionate vision that they’ve implemented in the mid-level leadership team and disseminated throughout the entire system.
Tell us about your current role:
The Emergency Medicine service line works collaboratively with hospital executive leadership to oversee clinical operations, quality, patient experience, finance, employee investment, community benefit, teaching and research, and market growth in the system’s emergency departments. The service line drives the sharing of best practices, standardized measurement and analysis of efficiency and quality metrics, and streamlined administrative practices by partnering with site ED leadership. Additionally, the EMSL assists our sites with redesign ED workflows, coordinates with system emergency preparedness departments, and is growing the Northwell footprint through a joint venture with GoHealth Urgent Care.
We also work with sites on career development and the (this is a mouthful, sorry!) ED Service Line Clinical Leadership Development Program. It’s a terrific opportunity for our ED clinicians, ACPs, and RNs! Created in conjunction with other leaders at the service line level, program participants attend an expert-led class every month. One month might focus on emotional intelligence, another on finance, and another on business strategies. This is a unique program that’s geared toward Emergency Medicine and it’s an exciting program because you don’t traditionally get these courses in healthcare work. Our SVP and executive director, Dr. John Deangelo recognized the enormous benefit of this investment in our clinical leadership teams along the service line and through his trailblazing vision, brought it to life. The program will be kicking off its fourth class this July. As a proud alumnus of this program, I can share with you firsthand how the content of this program augmented my own career development.
How does Northwell Health encourage employees to move around within the organization?
Moving within the organization is very well received and encouraged. I was at Southside Hospital for a long time and had successful upward career mobility. There are definitely pros to progressing and growing at one site. You know the culture, you know the players, you know what to expect day-to-day- even in an ED where the landscape is unpredictable! There are also cons to staying at one site. When you take on a new role, there’s a lot to learn and I think it’s beneficial to start that new role at a different location. Each culture is different. You’ll augment your own growth by being exposed to different processes and different patterns of thinking with new leaders. Northwell Health does a great job of offering these opportunities for upward mobility throughout the system.
Have you had a great mentor at Northwell Health? What did you learn from them?
Narrowing down my mentors at Northwell Health is difficult! Senior Director of Emergency Medicine Service Line Kate O’Neill is a dynamic person. When I was a Nurse Manager, I was expanding the department to three times its size. It was a very stressful time, I could share my experiences and challenges with Kate and she was the reassuring voice I needed. Even if I knew what to do, receiving validation from her level was integral to my growth. She always had a calming presence to her and you knew she was really listening, a trait that’s a hallmark of any great leader.
There’s also Paula Fessler who has championed my career and been a mentor for years. When you look at someone like Paula, her personality and the presence she has- it’s very inspiring. She reminds you of how inclusive Northwell Health is as an organization and how they build a real culture of care from top to bottom.
Finally, there’s Jason Philip, the Administrative Director of the emergency department at Southside Hospital. I’m very passionate about leadership, coaching and mentoring. I want to teach others the lessons that I’ve learned, especially emotional intelligence- a skill that’s vital for innovative leadership. I can’t think of anyone that I’ve ever worked with who has a stronger emotional intelligence than Jason. He is ridiculously engaged in all of the many moving parts of the emergency department. You wouldn’t expect someone who’s on the MBA executive route to really get down into the weeds of clinical operations. But from his first day, Jason has fully integrated himself. He’s also the Administrative Director of the ED at Peconic Bay Hospital and he does the same thing there! I’m just amazed by his ability to listen- that’s an art that I’ve tried to perfect in my career.
What advice do you have for people just starting out in their careers?
Don’t be afraid to fail! I’ve learned so much more from trying and failing than anything I have succeeded at immediately. So to all of you starting your careers, I say this: Northwell Health is the greatest health system in the world to work for and I would go toe-to-toe with anyone who would challenge that. Shoot for the moon and don’t worry about failing while trying. In a just culture like Northwell Health, if your intentions are good and you tried your best, you won’t be berated or beaten down for it. You’ll learn from it!
Any innovative changes or growth happening in the future we should know about?
One of the numerous innovative projects our team has developed and continues to augment are real-time dashboards. Historically in health care, measuring your performance was a manual, rigorous, work exhaustive endeavor. If you were able to obtain any information it was seldom actionable as it was always a retrospective review of things you could have done better, say a few weeks, months, or even a year ago, and rarely could you benchmark these results to others. Today, our service line team utilizes real-time data with a laser focus on throughput efficacy, quality metrics, and patient experience to name a few.
By leveraging this technology our clinical leadership teams along the service line can drill down to the granular level on such things as length of stay in the ED by the hour, day, mode (walk-in or ambulance) of arrival, and truly drive sustained performance improvement by understanding the challenges and opportunities this powerful information provides our teams.
Jim Wescott is just one great example of the innovation, passion and creative thinking that is making our emergency department a trailblazer in health care. Interested in joining our incredible team in Northwell Health’s ED? RSVP here for our hiring event on August 7th!