Novato Community Hospital in Marin County’s New Chief Administrator Shannon Thomas

Shannon Thomas is chief administrative and nursing officer at Sutter Health’s Novato Community Hospital in Marin County.

Describe a single specific challenge your organization faced last year and why it posed such a challenge. What measures have you taken to overcome the challenge?

The late October, Sonoma County fires and power outages tested the strength of our integrated network for the Sutter system. At Sutter’s Novato Community Hospital, we were able to successfully absorb patients and staff from the surrounding area who had lost power at their businesses and homes. We were able to get through the event without interruption to the inpatient and emergency department services we provide.

Mental health services have become a focus of health care providers in the North Bay since the series of wildfires. For your patients, what strategies have you employed to address this issue? For your employees, what are the challenges faced by your organization in addressing their post-fire needs?

At Novato Community Hospital, we offer our patients 24/7 access to telepsychiatry and work closely with Marin County resources to provide as many services as are available to us. Additionally, Sutter has provided a robust Employee Assistance Program with additional resources directed specifically for those employees affected by the wildfires. During times of active fires or evacuations, an EAP representative has been onsite ready to support staff.

What obstacles are policy and politics putting in the way of providing quality health care? How much do these challenge your organization’s ability to serve patients?

Outpatient primary care access is an identified need in Marin County, which is why we are working closely with our Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation partners and community providers to help fill this gap. Sutter also recently opened Sutter Walk-in Care in the Hamilton Shopping Plaza (5800 Nave Drive, Suite F, Novato) as an affordable and accessible access point for care for the community. The clinic is open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

What specific accomplishment of your organization in the past year or so do you wish to highlight, and why?

In 2019, Novato Community Hospital was the only hospital in Marin County to earn a Leapfrog Hospital Rating A. We were recently recertified by the Joint Commission as a primary stroke center and for our advanced certification for total joints program, one of only three with an advanced certification in Northern California, and one of only 115 in the United States.

Tell us one person or situation connected to your organization inspired you in the past year and why it was so memorable.

A favorite part of my job is receiving thank-you notes from patients. One of the most memorable came recently from a patient discharged after a long stay in our intensive care unit. In the letter, this patient thanked each staff member who cared for her by name and included details of what each person had done to make a difference in her life. She closed by stating that the Novato Community Hospital team gave her a new outlook on life and that she was aspiring to become a nurse. Letters like this make me enormously proud of the team at NCH.

What your two of your organization’s biggest goals for 2020?

Our goals for 2020 are to improve on the exceptional personalized care that we deliver every day to our patients and families. Our efforts will be focused on ensuring that every interaction we have with our patients is personalized and patient centered. Novato Community Hospital turns 20 this year, so we will be doing a lot of celebrating with the staff, our patients, and the community.

Do you have growth plans for your organization this year, such as adding services or increasing staff?

In 2019, we doubled our volume for our total joints program and increased our total surgical volume by 27%. We will continue to focus on improving the surgical experience for our patients and their families.