One glance at his resume and you’d think Kevin Unger is overqualified to be pushing a gurney around the halls of Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies. After all, he has master’s degrees in business and science and a doctorate in philosophy. But after watching him in action, you’d agree it was a perfect way for him to spend the day.
CEO and president of both hospitals, Unger recently donned scrubs – and not for the first time — to connect with employees who work on the front line of patient care.
“This is a great way for me to round throughout the hospital and better understand the patient flow and how things are operating on the units,” Unger said. “I certainly slow down the transport team because I am chatty, but I always learn a great deal and better understand our opportunities for improvement.”
However, UCHealth’s own version of “Undercover Boss” was not the only product of Unger’s journey through the halls.
“What it does for employee morale is impressive,” said Diane Gustafson, nurse manager of MCR’s transport team. “Kevin is a very likeable guy; people see him and have respect for him, but to see him shadowing one of our entry-level positions is quite humbling.”
Rachael “Purdey” Ellsworth, a certified nursing assistant with 15 years of combined experience at three different health care systems, said that before she came to UCHealth eight years ago, she had never seen a CEO shadow an employee.
“He is very willing to listen,” she said. “I appreciate that he does this. It shows that he is looking out for us and involved with the employees. … Those behind the desk sometimes only see numbers but not how those numbers affect you. It’s good to see the CEO on the floor but more so because you can approach him, and he knows you by name. That’s very nice.”
It was something Phuong Le had never seen, either. In his home country of Vietnam, a CEO wouldn’t acknowledge someone at his level, he said. He was incredibly grateful to be able to spend a few hours working alongside Unger.
“Not only do you care about patients and family members but the employees as well,” he wrote in a thank you letter to Unger. “You gave me your valuable time, the most thoughtful gift of all.”
Le came to work on MCR’s transport team in February, after two years in the operating room at a Florida hospital. He plans to go back to finish his certification as a surgical technician as soon as he qualifies for in-state tuition.
“Mr. Unger reminded me how very important my job is, how what I do every day is important to the patients,” Le said. “He made me even more excited about what I do.”