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DHM promotes Bava to head HR
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Michele Bava, who learned the value of work as a young girl on her parents’ Waterford dairy farm, has been promoted to chief of human resources at Doctors Hospital of Manteca. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Michele Bava has always had a knack of working with people, only surpassed by her work ethic that grew out of the dairy farm chores she shouldered on her parents’ farm in Waterford as a young girl.

Director of human resources at Doctors Hospital of Manteca (DHM), Bava was elevated to the position of chief human resources officer at the medical facility earlier this month.Doctors’ CEO Mark Lisa cited her leadership as being an essential element to the success of the Versant Nurse Residence Program along with “vastly reduced employee injury rates” and outstanding employee retention rates.

She has been key in shaping Tenet Corporate policies and practices and has served as the 2009 regional representative on the HR advisory committee – for the California region, he said.

Before joining Doctors Medical Center in Modesto  years ago, she went to work at a rehab hospital that was being established at the old Modesto City Hospital building.  Predecessor to Doctors’ parent Tenet Corporation, National Medical Enterprises (NME) opened that facility with a complete remodel.  She has worked at the Manteca hospital for the past dozen years.

Bava started with NME before they opened and she stayed there for four years.  The human resources director vacated his position, and she then made her departmental reports directly to the HR chief at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.

She described the “heart and soul” of her job is seeing the commitment of a lot of the staff – how committed they are in taking care of our patients – the stories they tell are just amazing, she added.

Bava said that while her human relations staff deals with a lot of the day-to-day contacts with the personnel, she sees those who have difficult personal problems and medical situations going on in their lives. .

 “We do whatever we can in our capacity to make it a little bit easier,” she said.

“A lot of times it’s just as simple as listening to what is going on, educating them about medical leave or taking a leave of absence if it is needed to take care of themselves so they can get better or take care of a family member and come back when they are ready.   To be in a better position to take care of our patients – they need to take care of themselves first,” she continued.

DHM reduces new nursing grad turnover by about 75 percent
Involvement in the Versant nursing internship program has been something of a passion for Bava who noted it has brought a decline in employee turnover.  The way she first became involved was born out of a vision by Chief Nursing Officer Carmen Silva thinking it would be beneficial for the hospital.  

“We collaborated and figured out what we had to do to get it started,” she said.  “It certainly is a team effort - a lot of it has to do with education.”

She added that they were not the only two who made the internships successful, because it took a very large group and a big team effort to make it happen – across all the nursing departments and nursing leadership at the hospital to make it a success,” she said.

“A lot of the nursing staff are very involved and have helped toward its success.  We just graduated our fifth cohort – so we’ve graduated 27 residents since mid-2007 and we have reduced our new grad turnover by about 75 per cent,” she said.

The period of 2005 to 2007 right before the Versant Program started the hospital was experiencing a loss of intern nursing students opting to go elsewhere to practice their skills.  The numbers leaving were reduced because of Versant’s “very comprehensive program” where the new grads have a lot of support.  They have preceptors, mentors, formalized debriefings; they loop in other departments where they get a better understanding what other departments do on a daily basis.

The student nurses also have an extended period of orientation – 18 weeks is the standard – including specialty emersion for usually an additional two weeks.  Bava noted it is a blend of classroom curriculum with the clinical – making it a very comprehensive program.

While there is a fee the hospital pays to the Versant organization per resident, it is considered to be an investment Tenet Corporation is making for the future.   The program was first developed at Children’s Hospital in Southern California.  DHM in Manteca was one of the first Tenet Hospitals to adopt the intern nursing program.  It was the second or third in the Tenet family of hospitals and the first in California, the second was in Texas, becoming a standard for all Tenet facilities.

“I see my role as helping my team in trying to insure that our employees are engaged,  committed and competent so that we can provide the best care for our patients,” Bava said. “Ultimately that’s our goal – along with the other legal issues for HR – that’s the big picture to insure that we’ve got a committed and competent staff to provide good quality care.  Every position and every person, whether they are a patient care provider or not, are integral in making that happen.”  

Asked a little about her roots, about her elementary school days, high school and college that led her finally to Doctors Hospital and into the position of chief human relations officer, she recalled what she described as a kind of light hearted story.

Dairy helps instill strong work ethic
“Honestly it has a lot to do with growing up on a dairy and doing a lot of work every day.  I saw what my dad had to do to run a business and manage employees.  I saw the challenges on both sides and it intrigued me.  As I got older I got more involved in that side of things with him, and I thought I could probably do this, but I needed to be better educated about it so I could understand the issues facing an employer and an employee – how you best manage and balance those.”

Her dad had a small dairy by comparison with only 140 cows, she noted.  Bava said she didn’t do any milking on the family dairy, but there was a lot of feeding the animals and everything else in between including shoveling.  Her parents finally added an almond orchard on the property.  Chuckling, she said her dad had interesting and endless challenges.

Michele didn’t have to plant any of those young trees either,  but she does vividly remember hoeing the weeds around them and moving sprinklers in addition to hoeing furrows to irrigate the corn, feed cows, feed calves, and irrigate along with other numerous farm chores including washing down the corral.

She was the youngest of four girls – the Pereira sisters – all of whom attended Central Catholic High School in Modesto.  She said she was the only daughter to be allowed to go away to school – to Fresno State – where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a Human Resources concentration.  Bava received her master in business administration from the University of Phoenix.  She is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Today her parents continue to work the almond orchard on their 80 acres after shutting down the dairy operation.  All of the girls have been successful in their endeavors.  Her oldest sister and her husband have a trucking company in Gustine and her other two sisters are teachers at elementary schools in Turlock and Ceres.  

Bava and her husband Mike have two children Evan, 7, and Gianna, 4.