Rulon Stacey’s commitment to employees saves lives.
Seventeen years ago Rulon F. Stacey (BS ’84, MHA ’86) became the fifth CEO in four years of the Poudre Valley Health System (PVHS) in Fort Collins, Colo. He credits his staying power to principles he learned in his priesthood quorums while a youth. Now president of University of Colorado Health, he is a 2013 recipient of the BYU Distinguished Service Award. “My greatest joy comes from improving people’s lives,” says Stacey.
As the new PVHS CEO, Stacey went to work improving the system’s mortality rate by, surprisingly, first addressing sagging employee morale. “If we don’t first satisfy our employees, it is unrealistic and disingenuous to expect them to meet the needs of the people they serve,” he says. “And if they are happy, we save lives.” Stacey began giving out his home phone number to employees. “I tell them, if I can’t make these the best jobs they have ever had, they are welcome to call me at home and talk to me.” Annual employee turnover has since dropped from 25 percent to 7 percent. More important, Stacey says, “our mortality rate has gone from average to among the best in the country.”
“To be a successful executive, I must be able to demonstrate [the] difference we are making,” he explains. “The real benefit comes by saying, ‘We have saved this many people’s lives, and we have worked collectively to change the outcomes.’”
PVHS has grown under Stacey’s leadership and now has more than 5,300 employees and two dozen facilities in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. His team’s efforts were rewarded in 2008 with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, given by the president of the United States to organizations exhibiting performance excellence. In August 2011 Modern Healthcare named Stacey one of the 100 most influential people in health care. He has also distinguished himself as an international speaker and author. Stacey will leave his current position to become CEO of Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis in November 2013.
“Everybody looks at me and says, ‘Oh, you’re so smart; you’re so brilliant for coming up with this.’ I always smile and say, ‘You are right. I am so smart, and I am so brilliant,’” he jokes, “but in my heart I know I stole my business model from the teachers quorum manual.”
He also credits principles in Doctrine and Covenants 4—faith, hope, charity, love, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence—for his business blueprint. “We make a commitment to serve, to treat people the right way,” says Stacey. “And that has made all the difference.”
He had the chance to demonstrate that commitment several years ago when Poudre Valley Hospital treated a victim of a hate crime that made national headlines. Stacey guided this individual’s tender and meticulous care until he died. The young man’s story is the subject of The Laramie Project, a widely produced play with a film adaptation featuring Stacey as a character. Throughout this ordeal, he grew to love the patient’s parents. “They are close friends,” he says. “They and I know we gave their son the best care in the world.”
Stacey’s goal is to respect everyone. “That’s how we treat all who come here, and that’s how I strive to conduct my life.”