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By Shireen Bedi, Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs
/ Published January 23, 2018
MSgt Ashley Strong, U.S. Air Force dental flight chief out of Schriever Air Force Base, was a recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Airman of the Year award and was recognized for her dedication to efficiency and patient satisfaction (Courtesy photo).
MSgt Ashley Strong (right), a U.S. Air Force dental flight chief, re-enlisted at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy on Feb 19th, 2016. It was here where she worked with her team, highlighting their strengths and learning from the experiences of her fellow Airmen to better provide quality patient care. (Courtesy photo)
MSgt Ashley Strong (far right), U.S. Air Force dental flight chief out of Schriever Air Force Base, poses with her team for Red Nose Day to raise awareness about children in need on March 24th, 2017. Strong works closely with her team to instill a culture of patient-centered Trusted Care throughout the clinic. (U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Cody Helgeson)
For U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ashley Strong, delivering patient-centered Trusted Care is more than a policy. For this Air Force dental flight chief, Trusted Care is about using the expertise and experiences of all Air Force Medical Service Airmen at every level to find better ways to provide quality, patient-centered care.
Throughout her 12-year career with the Air Force, Strong has sought to empower her fellow medics to focus on how they each can ensure efficiency and patient satisfaction, and their critical role in achieving the Air force mission. Her efforts has worked to foster the Trusted Care culture and one of the many reasons she was recognized as an Outstanding Airman of the Year for 2017.
Strong is currently stationed at Schriever Air Force Base as a part of the 21st Space Wing Medical Group, but like most Airmen, her career has taken her many places. At each stop, she focuses on efficiency by relying on each team member’s experiences. Strong takes the time to learn from other Airmen and use their expertise as a vital resource to improve processes.
“My key to efficiency is knowing the strengths of your team and knowing what they are good at,” explained Strong. “That way you can strategically place them in positions that play to their abilities. I also try to listen to my team when something is just not working right. Sometimes we are so tied to a regulation that we start to lose focus. Our Airmen are innovative and a source of knowledge. It is important that our leadership listen to them to improve outcomes.”
Strong also reminds her team of the importance of patient satisfaction when it comes to delivering quality care. From remembering personal details of each patient to ensuring their comfort during appointments, Strong works to create an environment where patients are placed at the center of their care.
“My commanders taught me ways to improve patient satisfaction in the Air Force, and I try to share those ideas with the rest of my team,” said Strong. “For example, coming in to a medical facility can be a vulnerable experience for a patient. I try to focus on making them comfortable. It can be something as little as remembering that their daughter just had a birthday and bringing that up in conversation. Things like that heightens patient trust and satisfaction all around.”
Strong’s dedication to efficiency and patient satisfaction support Trusted Care’s patient-centered principles. For her, Trusted Care all starts with open communication with both the team and patients.
“When you are delivering patient-centered care, open dialogue with patients ensures they get the right treatment and appropriate care,” explained Strong. “When patients feel understood, they feel that their time is not wasted and increases trust between patient and provider.”
What makes Strong such a vital member of the AFMS is her ability to make every Airmen accountable in how they support the mission. Having each Airmen take pride and ownership of their work is key to ensuring quality care is being delivered at every level.
“I think that if every Airmen behaved as if they were the CEO of their own organization, not only would they have a lot more pride in their job, but we would also see a tremendous increase in patient satisfaction,” said Strong.
Strong believes this process starts with engaged leadership who reinforce the message that all Airmen play a vital role in supporting their local wing mission, as well as the overall Air Force mission.
“We take care of the patient from the moment they walk in to our doors,” explained Strong. “When a patient has to be taken to another part of the clinic, we take the time to walk them over, make introductions, and explain the treatment they will receive. This standardization of building relationships helps Airmen see how they are part of the bigger picture. As a result, they do not treat the patient as just a line in the factory.”
Strong’s dedication to efficiency and patient satisfaction have not only supported a culture of patient-centered Trusted Care at every base she has worked at, but has allowed her and her team to take pride in their roles
“I think there is so much pride in being a medic,” said Strong. “The position can go unappreciated at times, but knowing you can make a difference in a patient’s life makes this job so rewarding.”