Morton Reflects on Years of Balancing Clinical Quality and Quality Care
Deborah Morton, who joined CareNet in 2013 and in recent years has served as the organization’s clinical quality director, will soon be transitioning to a part-time role, continuing a small caseload and managing Medicaid issues. In this Q&A, she reflects on the work of clinical quality and what she’s learned.
What have been your most important takeaways as CareNet’s clinical quality director?
First, that measuring quality is a complex, multi- faceted process. Second, that measures of quality need to be clear and consistent, rather than moving targets. Third, that to actually determine quality requires more than surveys and metrics. And lastly, that looking good on paper does not translate into providing quality care. We have to take into account the complex relational aspects of the care we provide in order to fully assess the quality of the care we provide.
What were your biggest challenges?
Allowing the minutiae of bureaucracy to wash away. There’s so much more now in our field than when I became a clinician, and at times it can get in the way of providing that sacred, non-anxious presence/space that is essential for therapy. So recognizing the power of the Serenity Prayer, and accepting what I can and cannot change—sometimes that is difficult for me.
How do you see CareNet changing in our current mental health environment?
I see us ultimately growing our service capacity, as we become more integrated into Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. I see us being able to offer more integrated care, and to branch out into our communities with more prevention and intervention services, more wellness services. I see our capacity for philanthropy development increasing, and so the increasing opportunity to do what CareNet does best—provide excellent care to those who need it.
What were your most enjoyable moments as a CareNet director and leader?
There are so many things.
- Forging and sustaining relationships not only in my local region, but also across the state.
- The strong connection with my “other half,” Barbara Saulpaugh (director of the Piedmont Triad region, where Morton is based). We really do make a whole person in our region!
- Being able to share with a clinician the feedback from a client about what a difference that clinician has made or is making in their life, and I can then share that with the counselor.
- The times I’ve been able to “smooth the path” for clinicians and office staff to actually perform their job with less frustration or fewer roadblocks.
- Observing new residents become seasoned clinicians, and being an integral part of that growth in clinical supervision with some of them.
- Connecting with our regional directors at director meetings and also in their centers for training
- And, of course, the ongoing banter between me, as a Tar Heel born and bred, and those of the darker blue persuasion.
What led you to step back, and what are you looking forward to in a part-time role?
Wanting to spend more time with (husband) Scott, and with family and friends, without trying to fit that into weekends and holidays. I’m also aware of my own need to slow down, and to embrace more peace in my life. And some awareness, and trust, that there comes a time for the next generations of clinicians to move into leadership roles. I’m looking forward to more sailing, more time at home, more travel and no alarm clock (or at least fewer days with an alarm clock)!