Anyone who has played organized sports has likely heard the saying, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” The idea of people pulling together to achieve a common goal makes sense to Gayle Zimmerman, coordinator, accreditation.
“I knew I could never be a nurse,” Gayle said. “I’m definitely not a ‘medical’ person, but I knew I could make a difference by supporting the people who helped people. It’s what drew me to Akron Children’s.”
At Akron Children’s, Gayle is someone who facilitates projects, collaborates with departments and tackles the less desirable tasks. Along the way, she’s learned new skills and participated in efforts to enhance Children’s reputation around patient safety and providing high-quality health care. Most recently, that included work to maintain the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission, the oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care.
On January 12, Gayle retires after 34 years at Children’s. Besides spending more time with her husband and family, Gayle plans to exercise, read, sew and do crafts. Once the pandemic lifts, Gayle wants to volunteer and sing in her community choir.
What brought you to Children’s?
After high school, I worked at the Akron Beacon Journal advertising department. During that time, I got married and had children. I had a 1- and 3-year-old and only wanted to work part-time. I applied at Children’s and Rita Sears hired me.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
Initially, I was a part-time secretary in nursing administration and information services. Later, I joined pediatric psychiatry, first as a receptionist and then as an office coordinator. After 10 years, I became an administrative assistant in administration and supported several areas, including risk management. I found I liked legal work, especially policies and procedures research. That drew me to the accreditation department 10 years ago where I became the accreditation coordinator. We work with agencies such as the Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Ohio Department of Health and others to coordinate the hospital’s accreditation, certification and regulatory compliance activities.
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
I’m most proud of my work to help create the current policy and procedure SharePoint site, which we began after the 2014 Joint Commission survey. This site includes our organizational and departmental policies and procedures, for example, maintaining adequate patient safety supplies and handling blood products. These documents must be current so when Joint Commission surveyors are here and ask to see a policy, we can present it immediately. We developed a data-gathering process that enabled us to go from 70% of policies in compliance in 2015 to 95.26% of policies in compliance today. I’ve received support from Laura Ephlin, director, accreditation & regulatory affairs, and Lisa Aurilio, chief operating officer, as well as Children’s employees who work to keep the documents updated.
How has Akron Children’s changed since you started here?
Our biggest change is in leadership, although it’s remained consistent as our people stay with and grow within Children’s. For instance, I’ve watched Grace Wakulchik, president and chief executive officer, move from nursing director to her current role replacing William Considine, former CEO.
What’s your happiest moment at Akron Children’s?
I’ve met and worked with wonderful people here, so when Children’s hired my son, Adam Zimmerman, EPIC application lead II, that was special. Even better, Adam met Niki Zimmerman, neonatal nurse practitioner, here. Now, they’re married with 2 kids. I also helped my friend from first grade, Kari Phillips, executive assistant in administration, get a job here.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Enjoying a warm, sunny, fall day surrounded by colorful leaves and either taking a walk, talking to neighbors or reading outside. Later, going out to dinner at Don Pancho’s.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Soak up the knowledge and experiences that people share with you and build upon what you learn. Also, take advantage of Children’s tuition assistance program, something I wish I had done.
What couldn’t you live without?
My family. They all make me so happy!
What music do you like? Where and how do you listen to it?
I ask Alexa to play “Barry Manilow,” then sing along and dance by myself to his and other artists’ songs.
What’s the last book your read?
“Safe Haven” by Nicholas Sparks.