Robert Garrett, 39, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center
In an era when worker devotion to one company is unusual, Robert Garrett is an exception.
The majority of Garrett's 15-year career has been devoted to 614-bed Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center.
Garrett, 39, is the hospital's vice president and chief operating officer. He helps preside over a facility with the largest outpatient volume in the state, with annual outpatient visits of more than 820,000, accounting for 30% of hospital revenues.
Of his job, Garrett says: "No two days are ever alike, and I like that. Some days the decisions involve staffing issues, planning, managed-care negotiations and even deciding on the price of the coffee in the coffee machine."
Recently, he led a length-of-stay reduction task force that coordinated the hospital's efforts to improve clinical efficiency. The 1994 average length of stay for Medicare patients was 9.2 days, and for all patients it was 6.8 days.
Figures from July reflect his success: For all admissions, length of stay was down to 4.2 days; for Medicare patients, it had been cut to 5.6 days.
The national average length of stay for community hospitals was 6.7 days in 1994, according to the American Hospital Association.
"While maintaining quality, we were able to reduce the length of stay dramatically," Garrett said.
Meanwhile, the hospital's inpatient admission rate has climbed steadily. Between 1991 and 1995 it was up 24.5% to 41,578 from 33,388.
Garrett orchestrated a $168 million renovation and expansion project that broke ground in 1992. When completed earlier this year, the project was the largest ever approved by the state of New Jersey. It added 400,000 square feet, doubling Hackensack's size, and made it the third-largest acute-care hospital in the state.
His efforts have helped bring national recognition to the hospital, including the top rank in eight of 12 clinical services categories in U.S. News and World Report's 1996 survey of the best U.S. hospitals. It also was one of the Healthcare Forum's 18 benchmark teaching hospitals in 1993.
Being one of only two hospitals in the country to receive the Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence has created a positive image for the hospital in the nursing industry. The award, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, was coordinated by Garrett and reflected a major effort to upgrade nurses' status at the hospital.
"We receive calls from nurses all over the country who are interested in our nursing program," he said.
This close relationship with the nursing staff has helped lower nurse turnover. Nurses now serve on the hospital governing board and other medical boards and subcommittees.
"Nursing is the backbone of this institution, and the Magnet award was a culmination of the work we have done promoting our nurses."
The hospital has had great success in competing against other institutions for physicians. During the past year, 135 doctors have been recruited, bringing the total to 739. He credits this achievement to Hackensack's large array of specialty departments.
"We have established centers of excellence in every clinical area that are recognized for quality, efficiency, and economic viability," Garrett said. "Other institutions only have centers of excellence in one or two programs."
He also is active outside the hospital. He was the winner of the American College of Healthcare Executives' 1994 Regents Early Career Healthcare Executive award.
He was a key player in establishing Women in Health Care. Endorsed by the ACHE, this group of healthcare executives ensures opportunities for women in both career and educational advancement.
He also is very supportive of young healthcare executives, said Thomas Terrill, president of University Health System of New Jersey.
"Bob Garrett is somebody we would all aspire to be like regardless of our age," Terrill said.
Added Ronald B. Milch, president and chief executive officer of the Combined Coordinating Council, a New York-based firm that provides consulting services to teaching hospitals in the New York area: "Bob Garrett is a bright young man, and I have no doubt he will be a major player in the healthcare industry."
Garrett credits much of his success to the positive support he has received from the Hackensack board. "(Board members) are an invaluable resource to me," he said.