The little girl who adored the purple capes nurses once wore is now the tough-minded woman who’s successfully leading a progressive hospital.
She’s Debra Ann Close, 58, whose steely professional demeanor in a demanding environment is tempered by the sensitivity in her nursing soul.
Now in her seventh year as the CEO of Dukes Memorial Hospital, Close has guided the facility to notable recognition.
In doing so, she has represented just 12-18 percent of women who are CEOs of America’s 5,724 hospitals, according to a new study in the Journal of Health Care Leadership.
On Oct. 30, Dukes was named one of the nation’s Top Performers on Key Quality Measures — for the third straight year. The award, given to 620 hospitals, is made by The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization, which, Close says, is the leading accrediting organization of health care facilities in America.
Dukes was recognized for its achievement on the Pneumonia Measure Set, a set of best practice criteria for the treatment of pneumonia. This involves “evidence-based clinical processes that are shown to improve care for certain conditions,” Close noted.
Dukes, which employs 302 people, is a member of the Lutheran Health Network that serves 23 counties in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio.
In 2008, Dukes and Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne jointly developed and implemented a Level 1 Heart Program, a chest pain system that enhances the care for acute heart attack patients, Close explained. The Level 1 is activated when a patient is recognized to be having a heart attack.
Activation can occur from the scene of an emergency or in Dukes’ emergency department.
“The goal is to activate, stabilize, transport and have the blocked vessel open in less than 90 minutes,” Close said. “When a patient is identified, Dukes picks up a phone that automatically connects the hospital with Lutheran Hospital, the first accredited chest pain center in Fort Wayne. The call activates established protocols for acute heart attack patients prior to a patient's actual transfer.”