Sulbrena Day grew up in the East St. Louis area. She was raised by a mother who always had a desire to be a nurse but never became one.
Her mother’s dream encouraged Day to take classes to become a registered nurse at then-Belleville Area College, which is now known as Southwestern Illinois College.
Day’s first job was as a trauma nurse at the former St. Mary’s Hospital in East St. Louis. She said she learned a lot during her time there.
“It was a Level II trauma center. I got a wealth of experience at St. Mary’s,” Day said. “I was really inspired by the mission and the care and the needs of the people in the community.”
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Day, 62, of Waterloo, continued to further her education and advanced into hospital leadership roles.
For more than a decade, she has served as vice president of ancillary services at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville. In this role, she oversaw more than 15 hospital departments, while managing quality and safety standards and enforcing hospital-wide policies and procedures.
Day most recently oversaw the major expansion and renovation of the hospital’s Emergency Department and the new 30-bed Behavioral Health Center, which opened last January.
Touchette is certainly committed to continuing to meet our community’s needs.
Sulbrena Day, chief operating officer of Touchette Regional Hospital
Last month, Day was appointed chief operating officer of the hospital. She replaced Dr. Thomas Mikkelson, who had served in that role since 2012. Mikkelson transitioned into a new role at the hospital working on special projects.
“We are honored that Sulbrena Day has agreed to assume this new leadership role,” said Larry McCulley, president and chief executive officer of Touchette, in a news release. “She is an effective leader who has an outstanding track record of success, accountability and team focus.”
Day recently spoke to the Belleville News-Democrat about her new role at Touchette.
Q: How long have you worked at Touchette and in what capacities?
A: “I’ve been working at Touchette since 2006 as the vice president of ancillary services. It entailed the clinical areas that were non-nursing, but it also entailed behavioral health services and hospital accreditation.”
Q: You oversaw the expansion and renovation of the Emergency Department at the hospital. What did that project entail?
A: “We expanded our Emergency Department. We went from eight rooms and expanded it to 12 rooms. I was involved in making sure, from a regulatory requirement, from a design to operations, that we were meeting those guidelines. It was very, very detailed, and we were able to look at the flow process for emergency department in our design of that unit. It turned out to be a great department for us.”
Q: What has the reaction been to the renovated Emergency Department?
A: “It’s something (the staff) were excited about, from our physicians to our employees in the emergency room to all of our ancillary support staff. Of course, our community wants to see transparency and that they get in and they get out. We have improved that through input for our emergency room for patients coming into the waiting room and getting back into triage and getting back into actual patient rooms.”
Q: The new 30-bed Behavioral Health Center at Touchette has been open for more than a year now. What services does the center provide?
A: “It’s been going quite well: what we did with behavioral health. We expanded from 12 beds to a 30-bed behavioral health unit; that added on 18 additional beds. We actually service 265,000 residents in St. Clair County. We are the only behavioral health center in the St. Clair County area. We provide both in-patient and out-patient programs for those individuals who have behavioral health needs. We do it from a voluntary standpoint as well as from an involuntary standpoint. If an individual needs services for an acute psychotic episode, they can come into our emergency room and be evaluated then the decision is made to determine the pathway they need to go. A pathway could be from the in-patient standpoint, or a pathway could be through out-patient programs. We make that determination based upon the needs of the individuals.
We added those beds, and we took down the walls of the nurses station. It’s an open-concept nurses station so that we can then become more engaged and involved with the patients. It’s a person-centered model of care that we established. It really has a goal of improving patient outcomes and involving the patient as well as the family in their care.”
Q: What got you interested in a career in health care?
A: “My career has been guided by my mother who herself wanted to be a nurse and ended up being just a housewife. She imparted in me the career path of nursing, and I tried it and ended up loving nursing, so that’s how I got started in nursing and health care. From there, just advancing and touching every area of the hospital. I began to grow a passion for just helping people.”
Q: What do you see for the future of Touchette Regional Hospital?
A: “We are invested in this community. We are certainly committed to providing a broad range of services based upon the needs of our community. One of the things we must do is stay current on the patterns and trends of health care so that we can develop the appropriate programs around those needs. Touchette is certainly committed to continuing to meet our community’s needs.”
Q: What are some challenges facing the hospital?
A: “The challenges we are facing right now is the limited resources. We are faced with individuals who come into our facilities who are homeless. We are faced with individuals who are low income and have very limited resources and who are trying to balance their health care along with their family’s needs. The limited resources create those challenges for us to be able to meet the needs of individuals. The mission of the organization is to improve the health and well being of the community.
And we have to be able to do that through all the community services out there too. We do meet with our partnerships. Having strong collaboration and having strong partnerships is important to the organization in order to help fulfill our mission.”
Q: How do you view your role as chief operating officer?
A: “I see myself as leading a team to the goals; navigating around the different challenges we may face in the organization whether they are internal or whether they are external factors. The factors might be financial — repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The challenges come from the external resources.
Navigating through all of those things and keeping up with technology. Navigating us through keeping up with those patterns and trends. And looking and making sure we are achieving the outcomes, the patient outcomes that our patients so deserve, and having the quality delivery of those services. I’m not a football fan. ... If you take a quarterback, a quarterback helps get the team to achieve a goal. That’s what I think is important. I have a great staff here; I have a great team here. I believe together we can do this job.”
Q: What advice do you have for someone thinking about a career in health care?
A: “I do mentor many young people on their career journey. What I tell them is, ‘What drives you? What is the passion that you have? Because the passion will bring you to the career destination that you are looking for.’ I say to them also to link up with someone. ... Connecting with a mentor is important for them to be able to come to a decision about whether this is the best fit for them.”
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: “We do some great work here (at Touchette). We are mission driven.”
Meet Sulbrena Day
- Job: Chief operating officer of Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville
- Age: 62
- Family: Husband Robert, three children and three grandchildren
- Lives in: Waterloo
- Education: She has an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate degree.
- Community outreach: Mentors students through a vocational school called Midwest Career Source and serves on the St. Clair County Community Action Board and the St. Clair County Healthcare Commission