Meet My Team: Learn why Quality Academy staff believe quality is love (and hear the song they wrote about it)

Quality Academy staff at the Diamond Dinner event in June 2023 include, from left: Kim Hunsinger, Ross Reichard, M.D., Barb Mesenberg, Katie Boyd, Jess Holtz, Melissa Barr, Jolene Anderson-Rau, Amy Halliday, Sean Clark, Sarah Giese and Barb Johnson.

If there's a process you want to improve or a problem you want to solve, the Quality Academy wants to help. Learn about the resources they offer to help staff learn and grow, find out what they'd look for in a new colleague, and hear the song they recorded at a Nashville studio.

Mayo Clinic is a team of teams — many, many teams. So many that it's impossible to know what each of them does. This column will put that question to teams throughout Mayo, giving them a chance to share how they contribute to patient care and support colleagues throughout the organization. If there's a team you'd like to know more about or whose work you'd like to see highlighted, drop the News Center team a note and we'll see what we can do.

In a previous role, Barb Mesenberg was part of a large quality improvement project in the Referring Provider Office in Arizona. The experience made an impression on her.

"The methodical process steps we went through to close a gap with our physician referrals process from beginning to end was eye-opening," she says. "The friendly Quality Academy folks taught us quality improvement methods and tools, and showed us how to apply those tools to our processes. Thanks to their help, we were able to solve some pretty big problems.

"I found myself thinking, 'That's the department I would love to work for,'" she says.

And for the past decade, she has.

"We're an all-in team," says Mesenberg, an Education Administration coordinator for the Quality Academy. "We have a pretty special department where we all gel well. We celebrate each other's successes and respond to each other's concerns. We are there for each other."

The team is also there for Mayo staff who want to improve their work.

"When we have the opportunity to help others get where they need to go in their busy work worlds through our education offerings, then see the outcomes through all the quality improvement projects — just wow!" Mesenberg says. "If you haven't attended a Quality Conference, please do. You'll be amazed by the work that goes on in departments you may have never heard of. It opens your eyes to just how big Mayo Clinic is and how we come together to solve problems that reach right over to the patient."

The News Center team asked Mesenberg — with help from some of her Quality Academy colleagues (Jolene Anderson-Rau, operations manager, Pablo Moreno Franco, M.D., associate medical director, and Matt Cox and Sean Clark, both quality improvement advisers) — to answer questions about her job and team.

Tell us about your team. What is it your team does?

Our name  Quality Academy — is a giveaway: We're all about quality. Our mission is "to educate and inspire all staff to solve problems and continuously improve healthcare quality to support the core values and strategies of Mayo Clinic."

We're a small but mighty team sitting within the Education shield that supports the enterprise workforce. We couldn't do what we do without the 80 faculty members who help us in the quality improvement realm by instructing classes and reviewing projects for Mayo Quality Fellows Silver and Gold credit. These faculty members, many of them volunteers, represent various departments across all sites and shields. Thanks in part to their help, 47,498 staff have become Bronze certified, 8,340 Silver certified and 590 Gold certified.

We also offer many opportunities for personal growth and professional development, which improves a person's well-being and affects those around them, staff and patients alike. These include quality improvement courses, the Office of Quality Improvement Publication Journal Club, and Quality Community Network events. 

How do you spend most of your day?

I help support our Curriculum Oversight Subcommittee, which coordinates virtual, in-person and online courses to help the workforce learn about our quality framework, tools and methods. I get to witness staff come up with quality improvement ideas, go through our programs, and end with Bronze, Silver or Gold Mayo Quality Fellow certifications. It's incredibly rewarding, as it means the lives of patients and staff are being improved.

I also get to participate in celebrations, such as Quality Academy Grand Rounds and Quality Conferences, where teams showcase their efforts. Seeing the end results of their hard work and knowing that we had a slight hand in it is rewarding.

I've also helped to offer quality improvement education and certifications to Mayo Clinic Care Network members and organizations not affiliated with Mayo Clinic.

What might surprise people about the work your team does?

We walk the quality improvement walk. At any given time, members of our team are participating in and leading our own quality improvement projects. We in Quality Academy have process issues and inefficiencies that we need to improve, just like everyone else.

People might also be surprised to learn that our team not only focuses on the technical aspects of quality improvement, but also on the human element. We employ innovative strategies like storytelling and gamification to make quality improvement relatable, preparing future leaders for managing change and uncertainties, and engaging all staff members.

Staff may not know that we are available to answer quality improvement project questions. Advising quality improvement project teams is the closest connection we have to helping Mayo Clinic staff to improve our processes and better meet the needs of the patient. We're here to help.

And people might also be surprised to learn that quality improvement is a lot of fun!

Everyone at Mayo contributes to caring for patients. How does your team do that?

We have the needs of the patient at the forefront when developing our quality improvement education.

We help design systems and processes across Mayo Clinic that are efficient, effective and patient-centered. We work behind the scenes to teach our staff how to analyze data, streamline workflows, plan implementation, organize change management, apply Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles, build frameworks for continuous learning systems, and implement best practices that enhance the overall patient experience.

Our ultimate goal is to have a positive impact on teams that provide care to our patients. We help teach individuals and teams how to look at the work that they do as a process and understand whether that process is working the way it needs to or not. And if not, we help them systematically improve it. That approach can be applied to virtually everything we do. Many practice teams have been through our quality improvement classes and have used what they learned to improve the care they provide to patients.

And that improvement benefits staff, as well. Teams that work together to improve burdensome processes will improve team camaraderie. And who doesn't bring their best when they feel like they are part of a highly functioning team? 

You're going to hire a new team member. Describe your ideal candidate.

The ideal candidate for our team would be someone who embraces Mayo Clinic's RICH TIES values day in and day out. They should have a passion for healthcare excellence, a keen analytical mind, a passion for education, and a creative approach to problem-solving. They should be collaborative, eager to learn, and possess excellent communication skills to translate complex quality data into actionable insights.

They should also have heart. If you have a true passion for helping people and the courage to look at things differently, anyone can learn the technical skills of quality improvement. It takes heart to stay on the journey. As we like to say, quality is love.

What is a recent team success that you're proud of?

Sue Hovey, Jolene Anderson-Rau and Barb Mesenberg.

We are particularly proud of our recent initiative where we shared best practices in quality improvement with members of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. This collaborative effort not only showcased our team's expertise in quality improvement tools but also fostered stronger relationships with our care network members. Through this partnership, we've been able to elevate patient care standards and reinforce our commitment to excellence across the healthcare community.

Another highlight is the Quality Fellows Program's recent milestone of having over 500 Gold Fellows. Gold Fellows are staff with the capability to lead quality improvement projects and help teams solve complex problems, and they are one of Mayo Clinic's most valued assets in improving the value of our care. 

While it is our honor and privilege to be a small part of each Gold Fellow's journey, the credit for this milestone achievement belongs to the fellows themselves. They are the ones who have invested extra time and effort to develop their quality improvement skills and leadership while doing the hard work making things better.

If your team was a band, what would it be called?

The Quality Rockers!

In fact, through a team building project, we've written and produced our own song, so I guess you could say we really were a band (for a hot minute anyway!). Our tune, "Quality is Love," was born in a professional recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Enjoy!

If you had to describe your team's work in six words, what would your six-word story be?

We all have problems; Quality Academy is your learning partner as we work together to meet the needs of the patient and improve your daily work.

Oops, that's 26 words. (Sounds like it's time for a Quality Improvement Project.)