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Wellstar Paulding Hospital delights in its performance and nursing excellence capability

For Wellstar Paulding Hospital to be acknowledged with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is impressive. For the organization to have achieved that major award and received Magnet® designation within a year—and during a worldwide pandemic—is astonishing.

And that’s precisely what Wellstar Paulding Hospital, a hospital in one of Georgia’s largest and most integrated healthcare systems, achieved in November 2020 and October 2021. As the first healthcare organization in the state to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Award, and the 12th hospital to receive Magnet designation, Wellstar Paulding Hospital upholds a commitment to a shared vision to help deliver world-class healthcare to every person, every time.

Magnet recognition provides Wellstar Paulding Hospital’s community with the ultimate benchmark to measure the quality of patient care, validating the organization’s culture of excellence and offering tangible evidence of its nursing and interprofessional teams’ commitment to the best care possible. Through NRC Health’s Human Understanding ProgramTM, the organization achieved 12 Magnet Exemplars, stories that highlight excellence in nursing practice.

While the hospital’s leadership admits that each achievement represented a decade-long journey, they say that utilizing real-time patient feedback in that journey was “a game-changer.” NRC Health’s robust and reliable data about the patient experience helped them:

  • Address issues to provide follow-up and service recovery
  • Predict patient and family engagement
  • Respond quickly to concerns, identify root causes, and mitigate the likelihood of similar future issues








Wellstar Paulding Hospital’s leadership believes that when pursuing any kind of journey to excellence, it’s imperative to nurture the culture you want—even if it takes a long time to develop. When President John Kueven joined the hospital, he brought expertise around the Baldrige journey, attained where he’d worked previously, and recognized that the hospital’s principles were in total alignment with its Magnet designation goals. The transformational leadership strategy recognized by the Baldrige Award offered the organization a crosswalk to its Magnet designation, which created a solid foundation of excellence for the hospital’s further work.


In Wellstar Paulding Hospital’s Magnet designation journey, NRC Health’s patient feedback function helped ensure that loyalty, quality, and service remained high-priority. The automated technology attempts to reach 100% of patients within 48–72 hours of their care episodes. Contacting customers via email or interactive voice recording (IVR) technology, ensures providers can reach patients where they are, accelerating survey turnaround times and driving up response rates.

NRC Health also uses open-ended question fields to solicit patients’ candid feedback. This gives patients the chance to voice their genuine concerns, and give providers specific, meaningful points for improvement or praise.

In short, NRC Health’s capabilities give leaders timely information about their organizations’ experiential performance, and perhaps even more importantly, gives them robust, reliable data that they can use to support strategic improvements.

“It’s remarkable how much faster we were able to accomplish our goals. We’ve gone from below the 40th percentile in our inpatient ED to over the 75th in terms of patient satisfaction. And our outpatient units are above the 95th percentile.”

John Kueven, FACHE, MBA, MSHA, RN, President, Wellstar Paulding Hospital



Wellstar Paulding Hospital then took steps forward to fill its positions and focused on foundational elements to ensure improvements over time. When it came to patient experience, they used NRC Health’s solution to help provide high-quality care; the organizational culture created during their Baldrige effort aligned with their efforts to work together better. Magnet designation provided a substantial piece, too, giving a voice to the front line and an opportunity for the organization to develop a shared governance policy and strategic planning through a nursing team, then extend it to the entire team in terms of the patient experience.


While multiple concerns ran high during the pandemic, the staff came up with unique, innovative responses. Because trust was a huge component of their culture, the team connected around innovations, which Wellstar Paulding Hospital used as stories in its Magnet documentation to highlight organizational teamwork. One idea was tiered nursing, which was eventually rolled out to the rest of the hospitals in their system. Another innovation was the hospital’s new surgical services area—using powered air-purifying respirators to make an anteroom for surgical suites to ensure safety with COVID patients—which was also rolled out across the health system.


From a patient-experience perspective, it’s often hard to remember what was going on during a specific shift on a particular day. That’s where NRC Health’s real-time patient feedback functionality was a game-changer, according to Wellstar Paulding Hospital’s leadership. It helped them think differently about what could be done in terms of the patient experience.

“Our hard work in patient satisfaction was recognized in several categories of our Magnet document. Being able to act quickly was evident in our exemplars in our ambulatory categories related to patient education, safety, pain, and courtesy, and respect outperformed the mean for a majority of eight quarters of data on 100% of units.”

Kim Knotts, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Manager of Professional Practice and Magnet Program Director, Wellstar Paulding Hospital

NRC Health’s patient feedback data which aligned with the organization’s lean management system principles to provide the hospital with a more structured approach, helped providers meet patients in the moment and recognize every patient as a unique individual Wellstar Paulding Hospital was able to change its processes to focus on individual patients—and its Baldrige and Magnet work had aligned so well in principle, the hospital’s leaders were quick to pull Real-time Feedback into standard everyday work, allowing them to see how sustainable their improvements were over time.

Wellstar Paulding Hospital uses a predictive model in which, if a patient is predicted at a score of eight or below, providers are asked to stop and talk about that patient to see if there’s anything they can do as a team to change their experience. Staff members bring relevant information to their Voice of the Customer huddles each day, and leaders report on it, helping the team stay focused and prepared.

“Having data easy to pull forward and incorporate into our standard work has been very helpful. It’s not just a nursing thing; it’s everybody.”

Susan Thurman, DNP, RN, Director of Nursing for Inpatient Services, Wellstar Paulding Hospital


The Wellstar Paulding Hospital team credits its relationship with NRC Health for several aspects of its success in earning its recent Magnet designation. Sharlene Toney, Executive Director of Professional Practice in the Center for Nursing Excellence at Wellstar Health Systems, said that NRC Health was there with them through the entire journey, teaching them how to work with all the new patient-experience data.

“I think anyone that is on one of these journeys of excellence needs to see NRC Health as their true partner,” Toney says. “You proved that to us many times during the Magnet journey, NRC Health. Thank you!”

“NRC Health was always receptive and worked with us with any issue or information we needed, and now our collaboration will help NRC Health to be better prepared to help others on their Magnet journey,” adds Knotts.


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