Don Hutson: Father uses son’s memory to improve hospital quality

Published On 07/31/2012

Don Hutson knows the wide range of emotions families feel while their children are hospitalized — moments of joy, deep sorrow, confusion and sometimes frustration. Don’s son, Davis, was a longterm patient at Le Bonheur before he died in 2008 at the age of 6.

During their time at Le Bonheur, Don said, “We learned to open up and allow the Le Bonheur family to help us and love us and pray for us.”

Now he’s helping Le Bonheur develop tools and protocols to assess a family’s emotional state, ensuring open communication with the care team.

In his professional life, Don has taught a multi-billion dollar corporation how to improve processes, design high-performance organizations and thrive through change. Coupled with his perspective of a parent, those skills are helping Le Bonheur Children’s quality improvement efforts.

Don serves as chair of the Family Partners Council’s Quality and Patient Safety subcommittee and works with groups focused on quality initiatives at Le Bonheur — the Quality Council and its operational and physician work groups — Safety Operations Council and the Physician Advisory Group.

Don says the nature of the conversation changes as soon as a parent speaks up.

“A parent can bring perspective and a sense of prioritization,” Don said. “I speak up on the things I think are really important and will improve family-centered care. It’s extremely significant what we’re doing here. Family-centered care works at the DNA level of who we are as a Le Bonheur family and who we want to be.”

His perspective reminds Le Bonheur to always keep families front of mind when making decisions, said Donna Vickery, director of Quality Performance.

“As an organization, we get used to doing things the way we always have and tend to set up new processes or fix old ones for our convenience, not that of the patient and their families. Having an engaged parent on these committees who has experienced the good and the bad, who is willing to share their story, provides us the perspective we need.”

Don has since brought those perspectives and skills to Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. He is now the corporate director of organizational effectiveness, development and training.