It's not exactly like writing the great American novel on his employer's dime, but Alan Wesley is certainly enjoying an unusual creative outlet as corporate publications manager for SSM Health Care in St. Louis.
Wesley, a member of the four-state hospital system's communications department, is the author of a comic strip on patient safety that debuted last fall called “Adventures of Super Carol.” The strip, Wesley says, is designed to reinforce the practices embodied in SSM's Always Safe effort, which began in 2008. Two strips have been published, and two more are in the works. The next strip will remind employees never to lift a patient alone, he says.
Wesley draws a rough sketch of the cartoons and writes the captions, and then they are turned over to professional artist Cbabi Bayoc for the final drawings. Super Carol's archenemies are Count von Shortcut and Bad Habitus, and their pet, Slacker the cat, all residing in the Castle of Carelessness.
“We wanted a superhero who was not musclebound or a Xena, but an everyday person who has flaws,” Wesley says. “Her flaw is zeal.” Fighting the safety battle this way raises awareness without employees feeling that they are being hectored, he adds.
Wesley had a cartoon published by the Saturday Evening Post once, but he greets a question about taking up cartooning more seriously with humility: “You've obviously not seen my drawings.”