Why healthcare? “I just thought it would give me a broader sense of how the world works,” Barker says, aiding her judicial decisionmaking. In addition, Barker says she also believed it was “incumbent” on her as a faithful Methodist to accept the church's request that she serve on the hospital board.
For her accomplishments, Barker has been selected as the 2011 Trustee of the Year representing not-for-profit healthcare systems.
During the merger negotiations that led to what is now Indiana University Health, Barker insisted that the new system's board of directors not only include a Values, Ethics, Social Responsibility and Pastoral Services Committee, but that it be on “equal footing” with other board committees.
“I was frequent spokesperson for the view that we have to be doing this (a merger) for good reasons—not just economic reasons. It has to be broader than that; deeper than that,” Barker recalls. The committee, which Barker has chaired since its inception, oversees human resources, community outreach, ethical issues in clinical practice and pastoral services.
In addition to the committee, Indiana University Health also has a senior vice president for values, ethics, social responsibility and pastoral services. That person, Steven Ivy, reports directly to Barker's committee and Daniel Evans Jr., Indiana University Health's president and CEO.
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Ivy “has quasi independence from management. That is a fail-safe mechanism to ensure that the values maintain a high profile within the organization,” Evans says.
With assistance from Ivy, Barker's committee also is responsible for allocating $1.5 million annually for what the system calls “values grants.”
The grants are typically awarded for projects in peer-reviewed research as well as internal projects designed to support the values and culture of Indiana University Health. The system's values include an emphasis on charity, equality and justice in the delivery of healthcare services; excellence in education and research; and respect and trust in relationships among employees.
One example of a funded project was a two-year $130,000 research initiative to find out if the system's values had trickled down to employees. The researchers used a method known as appreciative inquiry—a process in which researchers solicit stories from employees about actions that occurred in their daily work. The idea is to find out if the stories employees tell illustrate one of the system's core values.
After two years and hundreds of stories, researchers concluded that the employees were, in fact, acting in accordance with the system's values.
But Barker is particularly proud of another way values and ethics infuse the health system's work: Indiana University Health's board begins each meeting with a story and a prayer by one of its 35 full-time chaplains.
The stories are often about employees who go out of their way to help patients and their families. Evans recalled one story in particular: Nurses and maintenance staff at Riley Children's Hospital once moved a terminally ill boy from his assigned room to another room with a window facing out on nearby construction because the boy loved construction.
“It is one of the ways that board members are reminded that what we do here matters and affects people in significant ways,” Barker says.