Leading the FiSHing Expedition

By Lynn McCain | November 15 2023

Chris Distelrath and Melina Adler are part of a tight-knit group of trainers.In April 2023, six Pathology employees from across the department came together for two days of training. Many of these had never met the others in the room as they worked in different units, on different campuses, and on different shifts. But they came together with a common goal: to become FiSH! Philosophy trainers with the aim of improving the culture in the Department of Pathology. Over two days of training, these strangers became a team of motivated trainers.

Melina Adler
, Project Manager for Michigan Medicine Laboratories (MLabs), spends her days working on a variety of projects to improve specimen quality, workflows, and business growth. “The Department was offering a variety of FiSH! training sessions, including the standard FiSH! training, FiSH! for Leaders, and Train the Trainer sessions. The only one that fit my schedule was the Train the Trainer, so I attended that without knowing what I was committing myself to. But it was a perfect fit for me.” Adler has found the diversity on the team to be a real benefit. “I never would have met some of the trainers. They work the midnight shift at the hospital, and I work during the day at the NCRC. That is one of the benefits of being a trainer – I get to collaborate with people from across the department who I would never otherwise have a chance to meet.”

Gloria Barkley introduces herself at FiSH! training.Gloria Barkley is a day-shift In-patient Phlebotomist. Gloria is the one responsible for making sure that we have the right treats for our participants, often supplementing the catering orders with extras to be sure our students have better options to eat. She also facilitates the training by ensuring our trainers stay on schedule, which the class participants appreciate, as well as doing some teaching. She observed, “At the most simplistic level of each and everything we do, we simply make the choice to choose a better attitude, be present for others that we interact with, and have fun in our day. This is honestly such an important lesson to learn, and not only does it change others' lives, but it has drastically changed my life at work and not at work. This is a way of life that is so incredibly magnetic when you figure out how much joy these changes can bring about.”

Karen Barron MLS (ASCP) is the Allied Health Education Manager for the Department of Pathology, and in that role, she has kept the FISH! Training team on task and pulling in the same direction.  “I enjoy the other members of the training Karen Barron prepares to throw "Pete the Perch", the FiSH! mascot.team and practicing the FISH! philosophy together as we work towards the goal of bringing it to our work culture.”  She has found the process rewarding, “It’s great to see the transformation during a FISH! Guppy Learning Session when the participants start out tired and skeptical and yet, by the last “playstorm”, they are laughing and getting the creative juices flowing!”

Chris Distelrath is a night-shift In-patient Phlebotomist who is the team’s caretaker.  She goes out of her way to do thoughtful and kind acts for others on the team. Her upbeat personality and generosity of spirit makes it easy for the team to choose positive attitudes. Whether it is bringing candy and treats to meetings or making matching scarves for each member of the team, she is always giving. Chris often comes to training sessions after having worked her night shift. Even if exhausted, she brings positive energy to the session as she teaches. When she saw the emails about the original FiSH! Philosophy training classes, she thought “I need to check this out. I think it is something that could benefit my burnout. I attended the first session and at the end I was hooked! I drank the Kool-Aid. I have attended a number of work habit/attitude shift seminars over the years that only seemed to look at "workplace". You needed to put on a work cap and then a personal life cap when you left the job. FiSH! is so applicable to both worlds and simple to do! The 4 principles are very easily applied both at work and out in the real world... Choose your attitude, - all day every day. As life comes at you decide how you are going to respond and what attitude the world is going to experience with you at that time. Being there for others - Being in the moment when folks need you. Hopefully it's returned. Patients need someone to recognize them as humans and be present to them throughout the day. I hope when they encounter me at the end they have been changed for good and that I too am changed. Making someone's day has always been an easy principle for me to do. I've been told I'm a good listener so if you listen, generally there is something that can be done to surprise and make a day. Play has been a little hard to fully implement. I think I bring the spirit of fun to the workplace. It's just been a bit tuff lately given the workload. I do snack/dinner Fridays every week for the midnight team - I make a killer brownie. 

Lynn McCain throwing Pete as she teaches on "Play"Lynn McCain is the Director of Communications for Pathology and spends most of her time planning, conducting interviews, writing, and overseeing her creative communications staff. She is also pursuing a doctorate in strategic leadership, which she applies to her work in Pathology. McCain began her FiSH! journey as a skeptic in the first set of classes offered by the department, but quickly changed her attitude and embraced the FiSH! Philosophy. She went on to complete the FiSH! for Leaders and Train the Trainer sessions. “The FiSH! Philosophy enables us to create the environment we want to experience at work and at home. By consistently applying the FiSH! practices, we transform our work environments into the positive, enjoyable, and productive places we desire. It is amazing how much better the environment can be when we really focus on making other peoples’ day and approach work with a productive attitude.”

Julene Pummill teaches us how to "Be There" for each other.Julene Pummill, is a Trainer Educator for Michigan Medicine Laboratories (MLabs) and she spends her days training and onboarding new staff, conducting competency evaluations, follow-ups with staff, creating training documentation, publishing policies and procedures, and more. Pummill had been trained in the FiSH! Philosophy at a prior employer, so when the opportunity to become a trainer for FiSH! was presented to her, she eagerly stepped up. She, like the other trainers, willingly added the significant additional workload without additional compensation because she believes in the FiSH! Philosophy. “I enjoy the principles that are instilled because of it. I think that Pathology would really benefit from catching on to the FiSH! Philosophy. I chose to do this on top of my normal workload because it is something that I’m passionate about.” Pummill has seen the benefits of this program personally. “I have benefitted from the principles themselves and by living by these principles. I’ve seen it roll over into my personal life and then also, obviously, on the job.”

As Barkley observed, “From feedback of those who have taken the class, everybody wants MORE. We need to continue teaching on a regular schedule as fresh staff join our department, and we need to continue to teach and grow our school of FiSH! Family. It is a difficult task to change a mindset; we need to support and practice our behaviors until we have an environment in pathology that is healthy and enduring.”

The training team is now planning for the next set of classes to be offered to the Department as well as some follow up sessions to help units within Pathology better implement FiSH! in their areas.

The next set of classes will be offered on

December 6, 2023 - 8:30 – 11:00 am (Towsley Dining Room, Large)

December 7, 2023 – 1:30 – 4:00 pm (NCRC Superior Room)

January 17, 2024 – 1:30 – 4:00 pm (NCRC Superior Room).

Stay tuned for more details and visit the department's FiSH! website for resources and information. For those who may be interested in joining the FiSH! Trainers team, reach out to a member of the team, who can help you take the first step on the journey.