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Newsome takes over Memorial’s communications department

Thu, Jul 26, 2012

One on One

Brian Newsome, 35, started his career in journalism, working at a local daily newspaper.

But later, when a chance to work at Memorial Health System, he saw an opportunity to provide a public service and be part of a team that supports local health care.

He’s been at Memorial through years of uncertainty, as one task force after another made its own recommendations about the hospital’s future. His job, as he sees it, is both providing information to employees and listening to their concerns.

Newsome recently took over as interim director of the communications department at Memorial. That puts him in charge of the operation that handles every aspect of communications for the system: media, the public and employees. Each has its own challenges.

Why did you decide to move from journalism into communications with Memorial Health System?

I was first drawn to journalism because it provided me with a way to apply my love of writing and working with people to public service. I saw a similar opportunity to serve others at Memorial. Each day when I come to work, I’m here to serve our patients. I may not be saving lives like our nurses, physicians and others do each day, but I’m part of a team that supports this important work.

What are your job responsibilities now that you’re head of the communications department?

Have you ever noticed how job descriptions usually include a line at the end that says, “perform other duties as assigned”? Well, that sums up the job in a nutshell. Formally, the team I manage is responsible for marketing, communications, media relations and the web for all things Memorial.

In practice, we operate somewhat like an agency. The CEO, the patient, the community member, the physician and the nurse are all our clients. They are equally important, they need our expertise, and they have vastly different needs.

On any given day, we may assist our executive team with communications, design an ad for a service line, produce a brochure to help our patients, assist the media with a story, and help our employees understand the latest news about their organization.

My job, as I see it, is to ensure that every one of our “clients” is treated with equal attention and respect, and that everyone we serve benefits from our expertise.

What are the particular challenges you’re facing now?

The past few years of uncertainty and controversy have dealt a blow to staff morale and patient volumes. The challenge for my team is to help employees stay focused on our patients and to understand the potential for a bright future ahead. We must also work to bolster the trust and confidence of physicians and patients.

What’s the best thing about working at Memorial?

Without question, it is the people. I have never worked with such a compassionate, caring group of individuals. Even though we are one of the largest employers in El Paso County outside the military, Memorial feels like a family. Almost daily I hear stories of nurses, volunteers or others who do so much more than one might expect. It makes me proud, and it makes me strive to give more of myself.

Memorial’s been in a state of uncertainty for more than two years. What can you do for employees to ease that uncertainty?

The best thing we can do, of course, is provide information. When it comes to change, people want to know exactly how it will affect them and why.

In the absence of information, I believe the next best thing is listening.

We’ve created a culture of openness via our blogs, employee forums and other communication tools. Candid conversation is not always easy, but our philosophy is that even when people may not like what they hear sometimes, there is a mutual respect for the truth.

These years of uncertainty have been painful, to be sure. But I believe what we’ve gone through, as an organization, has made us stronger and better prepared for the future ahead, and all the more appreciative of the exciting possibilities.

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