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During and Hartman: Yellow Belt Trainers

By Kat Kostic

Two years ago, SickKids launched the Yellow Belt program, the first educational offering of the hospital’s Continuous Improvement Program, to help staff improve processes and work more efficiently.  The program is designed to help staff provide the highest quality family-centred care and achieve the organization’s strategic objectives.

The program is led by two members of the Process Improvement and Innovation team, Michael Hartman, Senior Program Manager, and David During, Program Manager, who have developed an extensive training curriculum for all levels of staff.

Hartman has been providing support to SickKids teams since 2011 and joined the hospital in 2012 on a full-time basis. Previously, he implemented coaching support to other health-care and government organizations, helping to improve their performance and engagement.

During brings more than 10 years of practical experience in problem solving using industrial engineering and process improvement techniques, which he acquired as a leader in various retail, manufacturing and energy industries. He joined SickKids in 2012 and works with different departments to make good processes better.

“The education provided by Michael and David enables teams across the organization to improve processes that impact them every single day.  They offer practical methods and tools, and they make learning fun and engaging” says Kelly McMillen, Director of the Learning Institute. 

Tell us about the Yellow Belt program and what you hope to achieve.

DD: The Yellow Belt program is a one-day introduction course on how to improve a process. It is a fun and interactive way to help participants identify who their customer is, what they want and how the processes can be fine-tuned to consistently deliver what the customers care about, in an efficient manner.

MH: With our Yellow Belt program, we want to build an awareness of the positive impact of continuous improvement methods and have participants walk away with the sense that they can apply these tools to make their day-to-day work experience less frustrating and more rewarding.

Why do we need process improvement at SickKids?

MH: We hear from people every day and at all levels – from bedside nurses to senior leaders – about issues and opportunities that they wish they could act on.  While sometimes it is lack of resources that prevents us from taking action, many times all we need is simply the right tools and approach to take the first steps.  Building process improvement capability with our staff helps to address this issue.

How does learning make SickKids a better place?

MH: The environment around us is constantly changing and these changes sometimes impact the way in which we do our work.  Examples include new therapies, new technologies, new policies, etc.  When staff takes the time to learn process improvement methods, they increase their ability to integrate these changes into their day-to-day practice and fully realize the potential of these advances.

DD: The process of learning is not only about growing minds and prescribing solutions, but also about providing an avenue to make informed decisions that result in better outcomes. The sum total of good outcomes is what makes SickKids a better place.

Is there a particular education initiative at SickKids that inspires you?

MH: Any education initiative that allows us to better coordinate care for our patients and families is an inspiration for me.  I believe that breaking down barriers between various groups is the key to creating that smooth journey.  That is why process improvement education (Yellow Belt and Green Belt training) inspires me, since it is focused on bringing practical methods and tools to our staff so we can all work towards that goal.

DD: With bias, I must admit that any initiative that advocates a structured approach to solving or preventing problems inspires me. With the Yellow Belt and Green Belt programs, you are encouraged to define a problem, then measure the effects of problems, before you can analyze and determine why the problem occurs. After which you can successfully improve the process and implement controls for sustaining the solution. This approach truly inspires me!

What makes working at SickKids special?

MH: Being able to adapt improvement methods from various industries to meet the needs of paediatric health care makes this a special place to work. Customizing and tailoring our education to connect with staff is a unique experience, and being able to see the education translated into changes that positively impact patients and their families is extremely rewarding.

DD: Working at SickKids?!  Some wise person once said that if you find a job that you like, then you no longer have to work. Knowing that every problem solved potentially influences the quality of care and the outcome of a sick child makes being at SickKids special for me.

How do you think education will change in the future?

DD: Knowledge and learning will probably flow in bi-directional ways. The role of the student and the teacher will hopefully be interchangeable. People will be more open to challenging ‘common sense’ explanations and theories – after all, common sense dictates that the earth is flat.

Who was your all-time favourite educator, and why?

MH: My 5th grade teacher was my favorite educator.  She recognized that I could achieve much more with my work and questioned me in a way that allowed me to reflect on it and achieve a better result.  I have taken this to heart as I have been educating others to help them reflect on their work and benefit in the same way I did.

DD: My mum.  When I was a young child, she taught me the following words that formed the basis of my approach to education and ironically, my future career:

“Good, better, best; let us never rest; till our good is better; and our better – best!”

Individuals interested in Yellow Belt certification may contact cip.offerings@sickkids.ca .