Ursula Bonner-Wright

Mercy Hospital VP  Ursula Bonner-Wright

Have you ever wondered how hospitals create the latest practices to provide patients the best care? Who shows them? Who leads the vital work of transforming good research into best practices, particularly during a pandemic? 

At Mercy, the Clinical Care Redesign and Optimization department leads such work under the direction of Vice President Ursula Bonner-Wright. Its leaders are responsible for developing new clinical pathways—structured, interdisciplinary clinical standards—that detail essential steps in the care of patients with a specific clinical problem. Using the latest medical studies and evidence, they determine the best possible care and create better outcomes for Mercy patients.  

Mercy, a proud Regional Business Council member and Chesterfield-based company serving four states, is dedicated to advancing the health, wellbeing, and workforce of St. Louis and beyond. Mercy’s motto is “Your life is our life’s work.” During this COVID crisis, their 45,000-member health care workforce has proven to be real heroes. Among them, Vice President Wright is not only a hero but a bright star supporting thousands of individuals

“As a young person, I watched my mother and aunt help people in their white starched nurse’s uniform, white shoes—and, at that time, their caps. And I had the desire to follow in their footsteps,” Wright recalled. After leaving Webster Groves High School, she started her professional journey as a student nurse at Mercy while earning an Associates of Science in Nursing at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley. Gaining exposure and experience, she started as a full-time Orthopedic and Trauma Unit nurse immediately after graduation. Within two years, she became a clinical supervisor and used her skillset to lead a small team in providing care. Truly investing in their employees, Mercy provided tuition reimbursement for Wright’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Webster University, Master in Business Administration from Lindenwood University, and Master in Science of Nursing with a Family Nurse Practitioner focus from Maryville University. 

Ursula Bonner-Wright 2

At Mercy, the Clinical Care Redesign and Optimization department leads such work under the direction of Vice President Ursula Bonner-Wright (left) meeting with Vice President of Operations for Mercy Clinic Adult Primary Care Tesh Jewell Mon. May 24, 2021 at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. 

Mentors like Executive Vice President of Operations Donn Sorensen, Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Bentzen-Mercer Chief Operating Officer of Mercy Kids Chris Crain, and Chief Quality Officer Keith Starke, MD, supported Wright in gaining additional leadership training and opportunities. Like other leading institutions, Mercy used the Six Sigma Training and Certification as an effective way to improve its health care services. Hungry to grow, Wright became a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Leader in between her two master’s degrees, learning Mercy’s business operations from top to bottom with experiences ranging from improving finance processes to improving the distribution of linen services.  

From 2016 to 2019, Mercy was named one of the top five large U.S. health systems by IBM Watson Health, annually, being among the first health care organizations in the U.S. to have an integrated electronic health record connecting all points of care. During that decade, Wright was a systems analyst, and afterward Clinical Performance Acceleration executive director, involved in creating this finely-tuned electronic health record with clinical best practices hard-wired into the system, early warning triggers, and data reducing variation and compliance issues. In 2018, Wright was elevated to vice president of Clinical Care Redesign and Optimization. Her journey reveals how rising star-leaders are both born and created.  

On June 7, Wright will celebrate 21 years at Mercy. Vice President of Operations for Mercy Clinic Adult Primary Care Tesh Jewell shared, “Ursula is a brilliant clinician and excellent leader. She is very passionate about helping to improve the overall health of our community through her work in quality, especially in more vulnerable communities. She is too modest to admit this, but Mercy is very fortunate to have such a strong and dynamic leader helping to advance our work in quality, safety, and clinical process improvement.”

Mercy is dedicated to attracting and retaining more diverse clinicians, leaders and co-workers of color to critical roles within health care. “For me, it’s important that we not only work to ensure we offer attractive compensation, benefits and a great working environment but that we also focus on mentorship, job training and creating awareness of the vast opportunities that exist in health care. It’s equally important that we create career ladders/pathways for talented individuals who join our organizations in order to retain them. Mercy has many programs to address all of these avenues and recently, through our discussions with our Ferguson Clinic Advisory Council, we have discussed job training and mentorship opportunities that we would like to develop as part of efforts to be an integral partner within the community,” Jewell said. STL.works supports companies and citizens in such workforce initiatives in healthcare, manufacturing, technology, and the trades. 

For aspiring professionals, Wright sums up several secrets to success, “You must have a passion for helping people. It fuels you forward. Earning and learning programs are great ways to gain real experience and effectively grasp various difficult work concepts. Make sure to have many mentors as your personal board of directors. Mercy provides great opportunities, mentors, Women in Leadership and other support along each step. Always remember, ability without humility is a liability. So, be hungry but remain humble.”    

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