In what she describes as her “short 30 years” of working in the health care system, Cathy E. Duquette has always attempted to view the workplace as a place where a team environment, partnerships and collaborations can triumph.
And thanks in large measure to that attitude, Duquette has been named an industry leader in health care services for the Providence Business News 2013 Business Women Awards program.
For instance, Duquette’s response to the award was to frame it in terms of an accomplishment of her team. “I’m being recognized for what I’ve been able to do working as part of an incredible team. It’s never been myself working alone, but as part of a great team,” Duquette said. “It’s satisfying to be recognized for the work that I’ve been able to do with others.”
Duquette, who is the executive vice president for nursing affairs at Lifespan Corp. and senior vice president and chief quality officer at Rhode Island Hospital, began her career as a registered nurse.
Her work in quality control was a natural outgrowth of her passion “to fiercely advocate” for patients, improving care and improving outcomes, she explained. “I have to say that quality has always been my passion, even before it was [introduced] in the health care arena,” Duquette said. “I was very interested in the impact of what I did as an individual nurse to improve overall patient safety and care from a broader perspective.”
Her mentor, Duquette said, was her mother, who was also a nurse, working in the maternity ward at what was then Kent County Hospital. Today, Duquette said she serves as a mentor to her daughter, who is also a nurse.
She said she learned from her mother that “nursing was a great opportunity. She was my strongest mentor; she encouraged me to go to school and she made sure I did.”
“I had the honor to turn around and become a mentor to my daughter, who choose nursing as a career, and help her succeed in an incredibly rewarding profession,” Duquette said.
Duquette complemented her basic education, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Rhode Island, and her clinical experience with first a master’s degree in nursing administration from URI and then a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Massachusetts.
Edward Quinlan, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, hired Duquette to fill a new position to help design a hospital public-reporting program that became a model that was replicated across the nation.
“Cathy came to us at a time when the quality movement was ascending in our state and throughout the nation, and we had created a new position to respond to that,” Quinlan said. “She brought to us someone who had achieved a strong career in quality improvement and patient safety. And, through her excellent work with us, her strong career became an outstanding career.”
In helping to design a hospital public-reporting model for Rhode Island, Quinlan said, Duquette helped to forge close working relationships with the legislative leaders and state regulators that were critical to the success of the program.
For Quinlan, words of praise about Duquette’s leadership role in improving patient care and safety in Rhode Island came easily, he said.
“Cathy has really initiated so many new efforts to improve patients’ safety,” he said. He cited her work in creating the ICU Collaborative, designed in collaboration with the Rhode Island Quality Institute and Healthcentric Advisors. “Every ICU bed in every hospital throughout Rhode Island participated in the initiative; it achieved remarkable results. She has a strong will and determination to see new ideas and new models of care developed to better the patient experience for all Rhode Islanders.”
Some of her other major achievements were her work on the Rhode Island Hospital’s Operational Excellence Program in 2010; her leadership of Rhode Island Hospital’s successful Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services full validation survey; and her work helping Newport Hospital attain Magnet Redesignation in 2009.
In talking with colleagues in health services about the coming challenges of implementing health care reform, Duquette said that the conversations often boil down to two perspectives. Nurses in one camp, she said, say that they wish they were at an age when they could retire, because the challenges they face now are so perplexing.
The other camp, in which Duquette places herself, “believes that these challenging times are some of the most exciting in our careers. When we are able to work through them we will be in such a better place.”
One of the major problems, Duquette said, is the way the current system is structured. “We get paid for volume, for units of service. We don’t get paid for value. We don’t get paid to promote health and wellness,” she said.
An important component of the future solution, Duquette said, “is the establishment of partnerships,” creating a continuum of care that can provide all levels of services that an individual needs. •