Transforming clinical assessments with a dedicated focus on people
This interview marks the eighth installment in the Making an Impact series, a collection of profiles and articles introducing some of our best and brightest leaders – individuals who are making tremendous impacts in the government sectors we serve.
Joi Shaw, LBSW, MSM
Senior Operations Director, Clinical Services
Joi oversees operations for the PASRR program with Maximus. These conflict-free screenings provide a vital service to individuals with serious mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities.
She took a moment to share her story about her strong desire to help others, making a swift pivot to telehealth during COVID-19, and insights into how she remains balanced during these uncertain times.
When did you start your career with Maximus, and what was your first role?
I joined Maximus in 2016 in a role that had me supervising all of the operations for the Preadmission Screening and Resident Review (PASRR) program, a federal program that provides individuals with serious mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities, conflict-free evaluations for services, treatment, and placement in appropriate settings.
What inspired you to go into public health services?
When I went off to college, I was sure I was setting out to become a physical therapist. During my freshman year, I was injured in a severe car accident that resulted in months of physical therapy. Going through that recovery process, I realized very quickly: I didn't want to be a physical therapist — because I never want to work with a patient as difficult or stubborn as me!
Realizing that patient care wasn't a good fit was hard because almost everyone in my family is involved in healthcare. Luckily, I had a mentor who took time to coach me and help me to see that I was in the driver's seat for setting my own career path based on my unique interests, skills, and passions. One such passion of mine was the desire to help others, and another was for lifetime learning and growth. By my sophomore year, I had enrolled in the School of Social Work at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Today, when I mentor my team members, I seek to impart that same sense of agency and empowerment.
What do you love most about your job? What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
More than anything, I love finding ways to tackle challenges and ways to adapt to and overcome the hurdles that my team and I face day-to-day. When someone asks me to describe what I do, I have to pause for a moment: Every single day is different and unique. I'm continually learning and building on previous experiences and solutions. I love digging into complex situations to understand the available options' tradeoffs and risks, identifying ways to improve processes and workflows – and ultimately getting things done for the people we serve. The key is creating solutions that keep our clients' citizens, many of whom are individuals with very challenging disabilities, at the central focus of program operations. I continuously challenge myself to think about how I can keep the needs, desires, and unmet needs of the population I serve at the center of the assessment work that we deliver. Holding that "why" front and center drives everything we do – because each assessment has to be as unique as each individual we assess. In this line of work, no two days ever look the same for me. Every day is about staying flexible and staying laser-focused on finding the right solution for each situation.
What is your approach to leadership and mentoring?
Being a mentor is an honor that comes with or without having a lofty position or title. We are all called on to mentor and help where we can. A mentor-mentee relationship is a relationship based on mutual respect and reciprocity. I receive just as much from being a mentor to others as I give. Personally, being a mentor is not about creating a "mini-me," but instead walking and talking with someone while helping them on their journey to discover the best in themselves.
What separates excellent programs from average ones?
Commitment to the mission, focus, and most importantly, people are the key factors that separate average programs from great ones. Those elements are the indispensable differentiators that make a program successful. An engaged team, one laser focused on working together to make a positive impact, sets everything else up for greatness. This sense of responsibility is crucial at every level of our operations.
Commitment to the mission, focus, and most importantly, people are the key factors that separate average programs from great ones.
What are some of the biggest problems facing your industry this year? How have you been able to address those challenges?
The biggest challenge facing the Clinical Services Division this year has been COVID-19. We assess individuals from vulnerable populations, people who live with mental health disorders or intellectual disabilities, and many older adults with co-morbidities. The needs of vulnerable populations don't go away — even during a global pandemic.
Finding smart ways to administer assessments safely, while ensuring accuracy, compliance, and privacy standards remain met, has been challenging. Through it all, the team responded accordingly! Our division transitioned to virtual telehealth and hybrid assessments immediately.
Moving to remote and telehealth work has required us to conduct more than 41,000 virtual assessments from April 2020 to October 2020. With only a couple of weeks of lead time, our team designed and implemented all new processes, delivered training to our staff, made some giant leaps in technology on a very tight timetable, and made the switch to virtual assessments. It was critical that we not allow the people we serve to fall behind due to backlogs. The results of everyones' efforts have been outstanding. Our team has demonstrated just how flexible and agile we are in delivering excellent and reliable clinical assessments, no matter what situation arises.
2020 has been a very unpredictable year. What do you do to stay grounded and deal with unexpected change and uncertainty?
I have an ongoing list of DIY projects, and I'm probably talking to my dogs way too much. Some days I get in my 10,000 steps, I meditate, and occasionally I eat PB&J for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On a serious note, I started volunteering to help organizations make the transition to virtual delivery of services.
Overall, I think we are all dealing with things as they come. I remind myself that every day is essential and presents new opportunities.