Within moments of meeting South Texas Regional Medical Center’s (STRMC) new CEO, one thing is very apparent – creating a caring culture is John Ulbricht’s purpose and passion.
“My philosophy is treat others as you would like to be treated,” said Ulbricht. If you live by that Ulbricht said you do not have to worry. “I believe that everything you do here in the hospital has to have a purpose. Patients come first. Work has to be worthwhile. I even tell employees at orientation, if you do not love what you do go find another job,” said Ulbricht.
“Unfortunately, some people in health care become desensitized. They no longer look at a situation with a personal view,” said Ulbricht. He said that they forget to think how they would like their mother to be treated. “This is the time for a career change.” He said that this is especially true in health care because you cannot fake caring which is an essential.
“At STRMC, ‘Community Cares’ is a culture of service and operational excellence,” said Ulbricht. “The five pillars of ‘Community Cares’ are Safety/ Quality, Service, People, Finance and Growth. If you look at those five in order and you do the first three first, you do not have to worry about the last two. They work themselves out.”
STRMC’s goal is to create a great place for employees to work, physicians to practice medicine and patients to receive safe, quality care. Ulbricht’s goal is for every patient and their family that come to STRMC to have such a “Wow” experience that they go out and tell that story in the community.
Ulbricht said he could not be more pleased with the team he has met since joining STRMC this year on January 11. He said everyone has been so welcoming that STRMC now feels like family and home. Meeting every person in a leadership position, the physicians, nurses and all the supporting personnel is a daily priority for Ulbricht. He spends as little time as possible in his office.
“I enjoy making rounds. I try to make rounds several times a day,” said Ulbricht. “It is important for me to know that staff have what they need. I want to make sure they know they are supported and to have open lines of communication.” Ulbricht said most importantly, “I want them to feel comfortable with who I am and to know that we are here together.” He said that while he has a big title as CEO it is important that he be known as John.
Ulbricht does not stop at making rounds with staff members. Throughout his career, he has also routinely met with patients and their families. Keeping a pulse on the community’s satisfaction with the hospital remains a chief priority.
He certainly walks his talk. Walking the STRMC hallways, Ulbricht is greeted by employees with smiles and handshakes and calls of his name. Unsolicited compliments about the changes he has already brought about in his short eightweek stint are emotional and positive. It is apparent that his leadership and management style has had a significant and positive impact on the people that work at STRMC.
Continuing down the corridor, Ulbricht stops a family to ask if they are visiting. The father replies that they are there to see his mother. Ulbricht hands the two girls stickers and passes his business card to the dad. He asks for the mother’s room number stating that he will be by in few moments for a visit.
Ulbricht’s love of healthcare began at the age of 13 as a volunteer in the X-ray department. “I have been in healthcare from grade school to grad school and beyond,” said Ulbricht with a laugh. “I have been blessed to grow up in healthcare. It is what I have lived, loved and enjoyed for 35 years.”
He pulled out a card he received in 2011 from the mother of a young man who had been a patient in 2004. The card thanked Ulbricht and his team for saving the “miracle patient” and read “I pray to God that there are more people like you in this crazy world.” It was signed “with eternal gratitude.” Ulbricht stated that to him this is what it is about. “To me that is knocking it out of the park,” said Ulbricht.
“I don’t take complaints. I take positive and negative compliments. A negative compliment is when someone takes the time to let me know how I can improve the hospital,” said Ulbricht. Ulbricht went on to say he would rather hear a negative than for a patient to leave and never use the hospital again. “I want people and our community to be proud of this hospital.”
Ulbricht stated that the motto he repeats to medical staff and to board of trustees is that I want STRMC to be the hospital of choice for our community. “STRMC is situated to provide 90 percent of the health care services needed in Atascosa County,” said Ulbricht. “Fortunately, we are close enough to San Antonio that if there are things that we cannot do that we collaborate with the health care systems there to take care of those patients.”
“We are blessed to be a part of Community Health Systems and I am blessed to work with this great staff, physicians, board of trustees and volunteers,” said Ulbricht. “This hospital would not be here without CHS. The culture of ‘Community Cares’ goes all the way to the top to Wayne Smith, Community Health Systems, CEO.” Community Health Systems, Inc. is one of the nation’s leading operators of general acute care hospitals. The organization’s affiliates own, operate or lease 197 hospitals in 29 states with approximately 30,000 licensed beds. STRMC is one of those hospitals.
STRMC, besides providing essential medical services, helps to stimulate the economic health of Atascosa County year round. STRMC is one of the largest employers in Atascosa County and one of the largest generators of jobs. With an annual payroll of more than $18.5 million, these funds have a direct and widespread economic impact on local families, businesses and the community at large. As a tax paying entity, STRMC supports local municipalities, including police and fire departments, schools, infrastructure improvements like roads and a wide range of community programs.
STRMC actively works to improve the well-being of the Atascosa County residents through health fairs, screenings and educational programs such as Healthy Woman and Senior Circle. The center actively participates in more than a dozen civic and charitable causes, sponsors community events and supports local programs through volunteerism.
STRMC offers charity care policies for those who qualify and provide discounts for uninsured patients. In 2014, STRMC provided more than $21 million in charity, discounted and uncompensated care.
Before joining STRMC, Ulbricht was Chief Operating Officer of Laredo Medical Center from March, 2004 to December, 2015. He moved to Laredo from Marion, Illinois where he served as CEO for Heartland Regional Medical Center. Prior to that, he spent 12 years in Corpus Christi where he was the Administrator of Doctor’s Regional Medical Center, COO of Corpus Christi Medical Center and Assistant Administrator of Humana Hospital Corpus Christi. He is a graduate of Bellarmine in Louisville, Kentucky where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Healthcare Administration and a Masters Degree in Business Administration.
Ulbricht will make his home in Pleasanton. His wife of 21 years, Suzette is a registered nurse and horse enthusiast. They have one son, Nathan, who is a sheriff’s deputy in Florida.
Ulbricht said that he feels it is very important to live where you work and to contribute to the health and growth of the community through service and volunteerism. He said that he and Suzette have found in Pleasanton the house they will retire in one day. Based upon his work ethic and his past volunteerism which includes serving on dozen of boards and for civic organizations, retirement is not anywhere in his near future.
His community contributions include Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas, United Way of Laredo, Mercy Ministries of Laredo, Casa de Misericordia and the Laredo Day Break Rotary Club in which he is a three time International Paul Harris Fellow. He is very interested in going out into the community and addressing organizations sharing his visions for STRMC and welcoming opportunities to not only speak but to become involved locally. If your club or organization is interested in scheduling a speaking engagement, please call Tiffiney Willmon at 830- 769-3515.