Teamwork, quality care among reasons Steamboat medical center named a top 20 community hospital

The sign in front of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs. (Photo by Bryce Martin)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Even in an incredibly difficult time for health care workers, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center was able to garner national commendation.

The Steamboat Springs hospital was recently recognized as one of the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the nation by The Chartis Center for Rural Health, the country’s largest independent health care advisory firm, and among the top 20 by the National Rural Health Association. It’s the second consecutive year being in the top 100, but the medical center missed its spot last year for the top 20.

“I have a lot of pride for this organization, as I think everyone who works here does,” said Soniya Fidler, president of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “Everyone who works here really is included in this recognition, because they contribute to what we do every single day.”

The 2021 list of top community and rural hospitals was determined by results of the Hospital Strength Index, which assesses performance across eight areas, including inpatient and outpatient market share quality, outcomes, patient perspectives, cost, charge and financial stability. Fidler said those focuses are among the most important for a hospital.

YVMC, a Level III trauma center, is set apart from other rural community hospitals with leading technology at its UCHealth Gloria Gossard Breast Care Center, local cancer treatment made possible by the UCHealth Jan Bishop Cancer Center and simulation lab that allows physicians and staff to practice high-acuity, low-frequency care protocols, ensuring they’re ready for whatever patient need may arise. The hospital has also been leading in the field of robotic surgery, offering minimally invasive surgical options for certain procedures, and has vast local specialty clinics, including ENT, endocrinology, neurology, rheumatology, heart and vascular care, pediatric cardiology and plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Kelly Gallegos joined the hospital as its chief nursing officer in July 2020 from the San Luis Valley.

“I worked in rural health care in most of my career, and being recognized as a top 100 — and especially a top 20 — hospital is not an easy task to achieve,” Gallegos said. “I think this team is humble, but it is quite an accolade and very well-deserved. This team has worked really hard to get there.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a particularly demanding time for hospital workers globally, and the staff at YVMC was spared no exception. Gallegos noted how 2020 was an exhausting year, but her team worked together, regardless of department, in the best interests of patients.

“The teamwork here at YVMC is incredible,” she said. “It’s been a long year, but it’s been purposeful work, and I think we all felt that on the first day of the vaccine clinic when we had an RN receive the first vaccine, and we all started crying.”

The pandemic further illustrated how everyone contributes to the team, Fidler said, “and how it all ties together and allows us to do what we do, meet our mission and provide this great care to our patients.”

Those patients, considering Steamboat’s position as an internationally traveled destination, are not just the local population but also visitors from around the globe. Fidler often hears patients giving appreciation for the personalized care that the hospital is known to provide.

“We treated them like a person and not a number,” Fidler said.

When Gallegos first came to Steamboat, she quickly realized how much the community embraces its local hospital, which she said was impressive.

“I told (people) why I was here and they said, ‘Oh, that’s our hospital,'” she said. “It made me feel really good to know that the community really valued the hospital that we had there.”

As the hospital approaches its fourth anniversary of its merger with UCHealth, Fidler commended the expansive medical network and how its affiliation has benefited the Steamboat team. Being able to access resources at a broad level allows the hospital to focus locally on what it does best, according to Gallegos: Caring for patients. But also being connected to a larger network was critical throughout the pandemic, allowing the hospital to not stumble through adequate and appropriate PPE, making decisions on visitor restrictions or performing safe surgeries.

“I think what has changed … is having this foundation of support and expertise and I think definitely very evident of how beneficial that was through a pandemic,” said Fidler, who led the local medical center through its 2017 merger.

But one thing that hasn’t changed since the hospital merger is the people make up YVMC.

“What has remained is us, the people that make up YVMC. We’re all here, we’ve been here,” she said. “We’re invested and embedded in the community. We love being here.”

“Truly, this team earns their high awards for quality and safety and the patient experience,” Gallegos said. “It’s just evident in everything that they do.”

She likes to call it “YVMC magic.”

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