Building a Care Team for Today and Tomorrow

Our Team Delivers

two woman wearing masks and hairnets in the cafeteria
When the Delta surge hit hard, BayCare team members in administrative roles volunteered to help in our hospitals, including Janet Hall, left, and Despina Willis, who served food in the St. Joseph’s Hospital café.

The second year of the coronavirus pandemic proved once again the mettle of BayCare team members and physicians — almost 28,000 strong. Demonstrating stamina and agility, our extraordinary team adapted constantly to the virus’ variants and provided the exceptional care the community relies on.

The year 2021 was an endurance test, from the year’s optimistic start with a growing supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the incredible toil of the summer’s Delta wave, and to the arrival, at year’s end, of the Omicron variant. Addressing COVID came in addition to the community’s other health care needs, not in lieu of it.

Stepping Up on DEI

BayCare intensified its efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion in 2021. Read more in the DEI story below.

Each step of the way, BayCare’s team members stepped up to serve. In the first quarter, they converted office spaces for vaccination clinics, delivering 89,368 doses of vaccine to BayCare employees plus other health care workers, patients 65 and over, medically vulnerable adults under age 65 and other vulnerable populations. The clinics continued operations until retail pharmacies began offering vaccinations.

Then, during the Delta surge, BayCare team members stepped away from their normal duties when they could to help out wherever they were needed as COVID-19 patient counts skyrocketed. They served food in hospital cafeterias, pushed gurneys, cleaned rooms, restocked supplies and sat with patients to provide frontline caregivers as much support as possible.

“It would be an impossibility for me to sit idly by, knowing I can help, while our team members fight day in and day out to save lives and battle this virus,” said one volunteer, Nana Mensah Jr., who works in an administrative role in BayCare Ambulatory Services but helped out in Urgent Care centers during the day and Morton Plant Hospital in the evenings.

As the pandemic further exacerbated labor shortages, BayCare supercharged its recruitment efforts and hiring processes to get new team members on the job quickly. BayCare held its first mass recruitment event in June, taking over the newly renamed BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater for a day. More than 600 job seekers flocked into the stadium, where many were offered jobs on the spot after interviews. BayCare also created a new BayCare Careers Facebook page and offered cash bonuses to BayCare employees who referred successful candidates who stayed for up to a year. BayCare also leveraged contract workers, including travel nurses.

While working hard to fill the staffing gaps, the health system also provided programs to support and encourage current team members who were struggling with work and family challenges because of the pandemic. BayCare waived insurance copays for behavioral health visits by team members and offered a host of online resources and virtual seminars to address their emotional, physical, spiritual and financial health.

In September, the BayCare Board of Trustees announced that a “thank you bonus” totaling approximately $78 million would be paid to employees for standing strong during the extended period of stress.

While fighting the virus was job one for the health system in 2021, team members also worked steadily on achieving goals that had been set for the year and growing BayCare’s services for the communities of West Central Florida, always remaining focused on BayCare’s mission to set the standard for high-quality, compassionate care.

BayCare received these workplace awards in 2021, all based on confidential surveys of employees by the awarding organizations:

  • Great Place to Work® and FORTUNE magazine ranked BayCare 68th on the 100 Best Companies to Work For® national list. The companies were recognized for “heroic efforts to care for their employees, their customers and our society in a difficult year.”
  • BayCare also was ranked No. 7 of 28 large U.S. companies on the list of 2021 Best Workplaces in Health Care & Biopharma™ by Great Place to Work and FORTUNE magazine.
  • BayCare was recognized on the Tampa Bay Times newspaper’s 2021 Top Workplaces list.
a banner of the top work places of 2021 from the tampa bay times

BayCare Is Committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Jazleen Vecchiarelli is BayCare’s manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

In 2021, BayCare began intensive work to deliver on a promise that President/CEO Tommy Inzina made to the Tampa Bay community soon after the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

With the racial divide in the United States growing, and with COVID-19 infecting Blacks and Latinos in underserved communities at an especially high rate, Inzina had an important message to share as the leader of the region’s dominant health care system.

“BayCare believes in human dignity for everyone, but we also know that belief alone won’t fix racism and that there is much more work to be done. Improving our community’s health will require all of us — institutions and individuals — working together to address racism and dismantle it. We pledge to work to serve and respect all and help move our country forward to a more just society.”

Inzina reasoned that the place to start working on that pledge was inside BayCare by creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture and educating BayCare’s almost 28,000 team members and physicians on how to ensure all team members feel respected and are offered equitable opportunities.

The resulting 2021 focus on diversity, equity and inclusion built on a year of listening by BayCare leaders, starting with Inzina, who asked team members to share their feelings about the country’s racial divisions and about the culture for minorities at BayCare. A formal survey of all employees followed.

First DEI Manager Hired

The work shifted into high gear with the hiring of BayCare’s first manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). Jazleen Vecchiarelli is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States from Guatemala. Both of her parents are BayCare team members. She was working for BayCare, too, when she heard about the DEI manager position and decided to apply.

“The social unrest in our nation had once again pushed institutional racism to the forefront. That and my own lived experience with the struggles immigrants face propelled me to want to be a part of this work at BayCare,” she said.

Vecchiarelli completed a DEI Strategic Plan in 2021 that was approved by the BayCare Board of Trustees. The plan addresses four identified “areas of opportunity” inside BayCare:

  • Increase minority and female representation in BayCare leadership ranks.
  • Teach leaders how to recognize unconscious bias and practice inclusive leadership.
  • Educate all BayCare team members to increase their awareness of cultural differences.
  • Retain diverse talent by focusing on growth and equity.

The plan calls for training team members at all levels of the organization, creating a DEI Council, boosting recruitment of minorities and improving retention of diverse talent. By the end of 2021, BayCare already had begun instructor-led education sessions on unconscious bias for all leaders at the supervisory level and above.

Supplier Diversity Effort

BayCare is also exploring ways to diversify its supply chain to include more vendors or suppliers owned by minorities, women, people with disabilities, veterans and LGBTQ individuals.

BayCare’s large size and its need for highly specialized equipment and supplies increase the variables at play. In some categories of supplies, there are only a few producers, and BayCare often needs large volumes of goods, which can be challenging for smaller businesses. Plus, using fewer suppliers and standardized contracts can lower costs — an important consideration for a not-for-profit health system.

“But we are definitely working on this and committed to making meaningful improvements” despite the hurdles, said Ron Colaguori, vice president of Supply Chain & Hospital Operations Support.

BayCare monitors its spend each quarter and invested in a database that can identify such businesses in specific geographical areas. To try to make connections with more local minority-owned businesses, Colaguori and his staff are conducting virtual events, arranging introductions and working with the group Inclusive St. Pete. The goal is to identify diverse businesses, provide improved opportunity to participate in sourcing events and, hopefully, drive additional spend that supports diversity and the local communities.

Vecchiarelli notes that the journey to becoming a fully inclusive organization is a marathon, not a sprint.

“BayCare is committed,” she said, “to creating a culture of inclusion, fostering a sense of belonging for all team members, and having a workforce that is representative of our community at all levels.”