Working to Empower Patient-Centric Care in Ohio

Article excerpt

Annette Chambers-Smith never expected to work in corrections. Though her, mother was a correctional nurse, Chambers-Smith completed a degree in organizational management and started a career in business after graduation. But after a couple of years in the private sector, she decided she wanted to work in an environment where she would be judged on her merits--and quickly recognized corrections as that place.

During the past 17 years, she has worked her way from clerk to chief of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Bureau of Medical Services (BOMS). In this capacity, she is responsible for defining and formulating strategic plans, goals, objectives, policies, and procedures for the agencywide operation of medical services, with an operation budget of approximately $240 million.

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Describing herself as a business woman, Chambers-Smith is quick to say that her job is to "make it easier for my staff to do what they need to," and to find ways to build a system that is more cost-effective and efficient. Acknowledging that her expertise is not in the medical field, she excels most at creating an environment that allows the clinical staff to provide excellent health care to their patients. She has a vision of a correctional health care system in which health care professionals view themselves as patient advocates. "One thing I realized fairly early on was that one corrections professional in any job has the ability to impact someone's life. He or she chooses whether or not the impact will be positive or negative, but the ability to truly impact another person's life is part of the job."

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is currently under a binding five-year legal agreement, enforceable by the Federal District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, to improve nearly every aspect of medical and dental services provided to Ohio's prison population. Changes in medical and dental services have been sweeping during the life of the stipulation agreement and have required ongoing and intensive management efforts to succeed. …