A group of 11 engineering & management students from Clarkson University recently provided a healthy dose of procedural savvy to Canton-Potsdam Hospital while honing their own real-world skills.
Following a tradition started three years ago, Assistant Professor of Engineering & Management Cecilia Martinez developed five projects where students could improve various processes at the hospital.
Martinez's area of expertise is Lean Six Sigma, which relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by removing different types of inefficiencies and waste through an in-depth root-cause and statistical analysis.
“My role was to guide them in their problem-solving journey at CPH,” Martinez said. “I attended some of the project meetings with CPH, removed some roadblocks, and provided oversight to make sure students were not only on the right track but were making the expected progress to complete the project on time.”
The 11 students divided into groups to handle five improvement projects. They determined ways to reduce food waste; streamlined the process of transporting meal trays to patients; redesigned the scheduling process for total joint replacements, reducing the average number of business days required in the preoperative schedule from 37 days to 24 days; trimmed the time to access safe patient handling equipment from about 7 minutes to 3 minutes; and improved the way digital patient information is entered, cutting the average waiting time for orthopedics patients in the St. Lawrence Health System orthopedics registration area from 16.5 minutes to 10.5 minutes.
“Students presented their results to the CPH leadership and administrators said they were amazed by the results achieved and quality of the work in all five projects,” Martinez said. “Richard D. Jacobs, the CFO, called our collaboration a win-win situation that should continue in the future.”
In turn, the students were grateful for the hands-on experience they gained by participating in these projects, she added. While a professional engineer typically takes about a year to complete this certification, the E&M students aced their Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification in less than four months.
That's not all. After they completed work at the hospital, Martinez challenged her students to present their projects at the General Donald R. Keith Memorial Capstone Conference hosted by the United States Military Academy at West Point. Two teams took on the challenge. Their projects were accepted so they had the opportunity to present their results in this student-centered forum for applied research in systems engineering, engineering management, and operations research.
The quality of the Clarkson students' work stood out, Martinez noted. “Our projects were at the implementation level, but the others who presented at West Point were not, even though courses at these other universities were for two semesters. We did ours in just 14 weeks,” she said.