As vice president of organizational effectiveness at South Nassau Communities Hospital, Ruth Ragusas responsibilities are numerous and far-reaching, but she never forgets her top priority: keeping patients safe.
Her devotion to that topic was recognized when she was named to Beckers Hospital Reviews 2014 list of 50 Experts Leading the Field of Patient Safety.
Ragusa, RN, MPS, has been in nursing for four decades and has been in her current role since arriving at South Nassau in 2001. She credits South Nassaus commitment to patient safety for fostering her to be effective in the role.
It starts from our board of directors and our president and all senior leaders who have to make patient safety a priority, Ragusa said. And thats a challenge today with budget cuts and reimbursements and all those other competing priorities. Its hard to keep that utmost in ones mind, but thats the tone leadership sets from the beginning. Theres nothing more important than patient safety.
It certainly makes my job easier because there is a shared vision.
Easier, perhaps, but Ragusa stands out for getting things done. She does so by having uncompromising expectations of those around her.
Its certainly not a single effort, she said. Its setting the tone that you can always improve and that being OK is not acceptable. Its always pushing the envelope to look at the opportunities where we can be better.
One of those areas is emergency preparedness in a time when terrorism and mass shootings have become all too real. Ragusa knows hospitals can become targets, and she is doing what she can to assure patients are kept out of harms way when the unthinkable happens.
Weve done a lot of planning and preparation for an active shooter, she said. Weve done a lot of work in that area in educating our staff on how to prepare preparing as much as you can prepare for an event of violence like that.
Ragusa is proud of her role in helping establish many patient safety initiatives.
They include training to improve communication among the healthcare team during day-to-day operations and in any type of emergency, the implementation of methodology to improve workflow and remove redundancies in the system and the use of medication bar coding to ensure the right medication gets to patients.
Under Ruths leadership, South Nassau has been an industry leader in developing and implementing protocol and procedures that have improved the performance of our staff and the delivery of our services, said Richard J. Murphy, president and CEO of South Nassau. Her commitment to excellence and teamwork inspires our organization to build on our standards and achieve greater levels of effectiveness and quality.
As Ragusa looks to the challenges of the future, she hopes to see South Nassau build on its work at ensuring a patients safety after he or she has been treated at the facility. She cites as an example the partnership South Nassau has established with its skilled nursing facilities on handling patients with heart failure and sepsis.
Were so used to being especially hospitals involved in episodic care, she said. We have to expand our scope to be more inclusive and partner with other institutions and other healthcare providers to really treat the patient as a whole and ensure that safety throughout the continuum.
Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.