Communication and Culture Initiative: Together We Make a Difference  

April 2, 2020 by

Headshot of Ann Kellams in the hallways of Pediatrics

Dr. Ann Kellams

By Ann Kellams, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs, Department of Pediatrics

Healthcare is a profession of service. No matter what your role, everything you do at work makes a difference in someone’s life. Together we make a difference.

Q. Tell me more about the Communication and Culture Initiative.
A. This project started as a result of the Faculty Standpoint Survey and the Annual Employee Engagement Survey. The themes coming from these results spoke to the importance of communication and culture. I took the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Framework for Joy in Work course last spring and learned that if you are connected, you give better care. The Communication and Culture Initiative was a great way to put what I learned into action.

Along with the leaders of Women’s and Children’s, I helped brainstorm ways to bring this project to life. We sent a communication survey to get more granular into responses and we got some great information from that. For example, we asked the question, “How would you like to be recognized?” and most responded “A personal thank you or a note.”

We came up with a list of approximately 30 suggestions for ways to recognize team members from the results, ranked them based on impact and effort, and narrowed down to 12. It was also important to the group to define our mission, vision, and goals, specific to Women’s and Children’s and the Department of Pediatrics has our own version that mirrors the work in the clinical areas.

From there, we officially launched the UVA Women’s and Children’s Communication and Culture Workgroup, an interdisciplinary workgroup was formed with representation from LIP’s, nursing, management, inpatient, outpatient, Child Life, Radiology, OR, ED, etc. that meets monthly.

Our goal is to have multiple ways to engage each month– with quotes of the week, inspirational videos, random acts of kindness, and spirit days. Here are a few examples:

  • A newsletter, with a new theme each month
  • Celebration of a professional recognition day
  • A different dress up day with a health theme each month
  • A new question such as, “What do you love about your work?” (The answers are in the next edition of the newsletter)

The Department of Pediatrics Administrative Staff all dressed up in red for the February Spirit Day

Q. How did the month of March go?
A. In March, our theme was “Marching Together in Service”. We celebrated Dr. Seuss’s 116th birthday and President Jim Ryan visited the Battle Building to do a reading. Our professional recognition was International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Day and National Doctor’s Day. Our service line dress up day was wear purple for National Epilepsy Awareness Day on March 26th. Read the March newsletter here

Q.Why are you passionate about this?
A. I was the Medical Director of Newborn for almost 12 years and I felt like we had done so much quality improvement and had come so far. In order to get to the next level of excellence, we needed to ensure that everyone from the frontline on up felt supported, valued, respected, and appreciated. Until we changed the culture, we weren’t going to be able to give the best care that we could. This was a place we had an opportunity to make a difference.

I talked to the service line leaders about my thoughts. I shared the information I had from IHI and said, “If you’re interested, I would love to help.” They were immediately on board! This project has been well-supported by administration, department chairs, and service line leads. Because it’s a work group that is interdisciplinary, it’s essentially a grassroots effort. We want to give people exactly what they said they want and need.

Q. What is your timeline for this project?
A. When it is time for the Faculty Standpoint Survey and the Annual Employee Engagement Survey, we will send another Communications Survey to gauge results for the year.

UVA President Jim Ryan in a Dr. Seuss house at the the Children's Hospital

President Jim Ryan joins the team in the Children’s Hospital in March to read Dr. Seuss books in honor of the 116th birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Q. What do you feel is the most exciting part of this work?
A. We’ve worked so hard to hear everyone’s voice. We’ve done so many listening sessions and asked, “What is important about your work?” Every single answer has had something to do with serving patients and their families. It’s heartwarming and amazing.

Q. Are you seeing change yet?
A. We see this work bringing teams together, from the pharmacy to radiology, we want people to connect. You can’t measure it, but if you’re wearing the same color, you realize you’re a team. Team members are coming out of the woodwork to ask if they can help, our work group grows each month, everyone is sending in pictures. It’s something special.

Q. If someone wants to get involved, where can they go/who can they contact?
A. There are so many ways to get involved – some options include coming to meetings, sending us quotes you like, putting goody bags together, and delivering treats. Please contact me at to learn more.

The MRI team celebrates the February theme-of-the-month “Love our work, Love who we work with, and Love what we do” by making a bulletin board for “Love” notes for each other

Filed Under: Features