Myrtle Tate is a process engineer in Performance Improvement.
Myrtle Tate is a process engineer in Performance Improvement.
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People of the U: Myrtle Tate

Published on Thursday, October 24, 2019

By: Ruth Cummins

Myrtle Tate’s day job is working with University of Mississippi Medical Center front-line teams to redesign the processes they use to eliminate hospital-acquired infections and achieve better patient outcomes.

But when she’s not on duty in Performance Improvement, the registered nurse has plenty of other avocations. The married mom of two girls “and a son in Heaven” is both a grandmother and a great-grandmother.  A former Veterans Affairs Network employee, she traveled a lot in that job, but more recently has enjoyed family “girls trips” to places including Las Vegas.

And, she has plans to write two books.

“One will be a self-help book entitled A Nurse’s Pathway,” said Tate, who arrived at the Medical Center in 2016. “It will be about my personal journey and challenges along the way, and help I received along the way.”

The other will be based on Tate’s life-changing experiences with a non-denominational community of women who come from all walks of life. Tate and about a dozen women took part in a meeting of “covenant sisters” in Virginia. The group traveled together on a bus for hours, getting to know each other and sharing their personal stories.

The women’s personalities “unfolded” during their time together, Tate said. “We came back without the emotional baggage that we arrived with.

“God put this book on my heart.”

Portrait of Jeff Dunaway

“Myrtle’s education and experience in the Performance Improvement space is unparalleled, but that isn’t what makes her special,” said Jeff Dunaway, director of Performance Improvement. “It is her heart for helping people that truly sets her apart.”

That’s apparent in how she embraces her Medical Center duties. Tate, a process engineer, works tirelessly to instill the importance of patient safety and prevention of infection so that patients can go home with the best outcome possible.

“We use some standard sets of tools, and we assess the readiness for change in the organization. We serve as change agents,” Tate said. “We assist our clinical staff in identifying evidence-based practices to improve patient outcomes.”

One of her area’s initiatives is educating staff on the importance of hand hygiene. She identifies barriers that prevent staff from washing their hands – for example, lack of accessibility to foam dispensers or sinks, being distracted because of their work, or their hands becoming cracked and dry – and then offers solutions.

Extremely important, she said, is her area’s work in preventing surgical site infections. That includes a “bundle” of precautions taken during colorectal surgeries. “We’re educating the staff and measuring the extent of it being used,” she said. “You’d be surprised by the amount of work that goes into that.”

Another work area is educating the perioperative antibiotic team on giving the “right drug, at the right time, and at the right dose to prevent surgical site infections,” Tate said. “There’s a science to that.

“You and I, because of our different sizes, might need different doses. If my surgery is long, the anesthesiologist might need to re-dose.”

Structure and standardization are the building blocks for quality patient outcomes, and that’s what Tate engineers.

“More than anything, we emphasize teams working together to achieve a common goal,” she said. “We bring to the table how to methodically get to our end goals.”

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