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Katie Mcky
Behind every successful nurse and doctor is a healthcare administrator, the person whose dedication and social savvy enables direct healthcare providers to stay focused on the patients at hand. Healthcare administration is also a profession with opportunities for upward and lateral movement and one that offers job security and topnotch bennies. Meet some who thrive in this profession.
Darrick T. Paul, MBA, MHA, SPHR, is vice president, Human Resources Enterprise Business Lines and East Southeast Division for Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI). He is one of approximately 20,000 employees in the East Southeast Division. Paul, who provides leadership and strategic direction for all human resource activities in his sector, took a circuitous route to his lofty position, one that tested his tenacity and adaptability. “I graduated from college and received my commission as a lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve,” he explains. “I applied for numerous entry-level HR positions to include one at a premier healthcare organization. I did not get a position because I was told I did not have sufficient work experience. This was extremely disappointing as I thought I had made the appropriate decisions and plans.”
He eventually, took a job with a construction company as a heavy equipment operator loading dump trucks, becoming very proficient at his job and receiving praise from his supervisors. “However, I never lost sight of my goal of becoming an human resources (HR) executive,” notes Paul. “The company opened a new field site and needed someone to serve as an HR generalist while still loading trucks on a limited basis.”
Paul applied and got the job, excelling his way into a full-time HR position. “I was able to leverage this opportunity into a series of higher level HR positions to include becoming the HR director at the aforementioned premier healthcare organization, eight years after being told I did not have enough experience,” says Paul. “My advice to others in a similar situation is to always do your best in whatever position you take. Additionally, do not be afraid to take a perceived step backwards in order to gain the momentum necessary to take a quantum leap forward.”
Paul persevered, in part, because he personally understands the importance of quality healthcare and wanted to play a part in delivering it.
“Reared by my grandparents, I saw first-hand the effects of substandard or non-existent healthcare,” says Paul. “At the age of 22, while working for the railroad, my grandfather lost his leg to an unfortunate train accident. Consequently, he experienced a lifetime of chronic health-related issues to include diabetes. Unfortunately, due to his geography, economic status, and lack of transportation, access to quality healthcare for his family (to include me) was out of the question. As it was then and still remains today, I believe access to quality healthcare is a humanitarian effort and a civic responsibility. Therefore, I chose a career in healthcare because I felt that it would afford me the opportunity to be a voice and advocate for those individuals that do not have access to quality healthcare. I also felt that I could help to shape healthcare policy to remove barriers to access as well as create opportunities to encourage more people to choose healthcare as a career.”
If you’re considering a career in the healthcare sector, Paul urges you to seek opportunities to gain real world work experience either through paid or unpaid internships. “Students should also seek to expand their network through joining student and/or professional organizations,” he adds.
LeMark Payne, Spectrum Health’s director of system inclusion and diversity, loves the quality of care his company provides. “We’re nationally recognized as one of the nation’s top ten health systems, but we’re not well known,” he says. “We have both breadth and depth of services.”
One of 21,000 employees, Payne leads the organization’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. “To help fulfill our mission to be a national leader in health by 2020, we need the best and brightest from all over world,” he says.
Spectrum Health is an integrated health system, “which allows us to provide the best care at the lowest possible cost,” says Payne. “We have an insurance health plan as well as 12 hospitals.”
Payne is proud of Spectrum Health’s dedication to the community it serves. “The social impact that Spectrum has is huge,” he says. “We dedicate close to $250 million to benefit the community. We are concerned about the environment and have a number of sustainable programs, from waste management to sustainable food practices. We are good corporate citizens. We are the largest employer in western Michigan and have invested over $2.2 billion in buildings and infrastructure.”
To move forward on their career journey, Payne suggests students participate in internships. “I also recommend that they study the landscape of the health industry,” he adds. “You will realize how many opportunities there are. There are so many facets to this, such as billing coding, electronic medical records, and so on. We need people to come in with innovative ideas and approaches. We look for our core competencies, which are collaboration, customer engagement, flexibility, results, focus, and agility. We also look for those who enjoy working in an inclusive environment. You can develop these competencies in a school environment.”
Payne also encourages students to extract skills from current and future challenges. “I was working on my MBA, going to school on the weekends while working full-time and balancing a family,” he says. “It required a tremendous amount of commitment and I questioned whether the timing was right. I saw it through and it was well worth the journey. It taught me the importance of time management. I carried that skill away from that challenge.”
As the vice president of Human Resources at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, Frank Lenoir attends to the diverse needs of his 7,725 colleagues. He implements human resources initiatives and best practices, coworker relations, diversity and inclusion, compensation, benefits, employment policies/practices, and training & development.
Sometimes, the needs of Lenoir’s colleagues are considerable, and Mercy manifests its name. When a staff member is in distress, even if it’s not related to work, Lenoir is there to help.
Mercy is also merciful when it comes to its community. It continues to expand its medical services, opening a new rehabilitation hospital in Spring-field, MO and a new, in-hospital midwife birthing center that looks like a high-end hotel—albeit one that caters to mothers, newborns, and other family members—with a kitchen, a central living room for families, and a pre- and post-natal focus on nutrition and fitness.
“Mercy is cutting edge with technology to serve the current and future healthcare needs of our communities, while providing and showing concerns for the economically poor and under severed,” says Lenoir.
Accordingly, Mercy seeks people who can manifest mercy. “We look for those who can provide compassionate care, anticipating and responding to needs of others, able to work with others, able to be vibrant and professional, and innovative.”
If caring for others with cutting edge technology appeals to you, Lenoir offers some advice.
“I would advise students to join and get involved with the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM),” he says. “Also, students should do an internship, while seeking out additional work opportunities and volunteering to work on extra projects during the internship.”
As CEO and regional president of hospital operations at SSM Health Care of Wisconsin, Damond Boatwright oversees all operations for SSM hospitals in the state, including St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital, and St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo.
The organization, started by five German sisters with just $5 to their name, is now a $5 billion organization and one of the largest Catholic Health Organizations in the country.
“We are a truly integrated care delivery system with the clinics, hospitals, and health insurance plan working closely together to offer a seamless care experience for patients,” says Boatwright.
SSM Health Care was also the first healthcare winner of the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award.
If you want to work for this award winning organization, Boatwright has some advice for you. “The traits we seek are employees who reflect and support our mission and our values of compassion, respect, excellence, stewardship, and community,” he says. “Aspire to servant leadership. It is through serving others that we best understand how to lead others through very challenging times.”
Boatwright also advises students to buckle down. “I worked multiple jobs during the day while taking graduate school courses in the evening,” he recalls. “I had to learn quickly better time management skills and how to prioritize things in my life in order to be successful. I delayed immediate personal pleasure (vacations, dating, hanging out with my friends, purchasing things) so I could complete my school studies while fulfilling my professional responsibilities on the job to the satisfaction of my employer—in hopes that it would pay off later. It has.”
As the director—talent acquisition for Houston Methodist, Willie French knows a lot about who gets hired. “In my position as director of talent acquisition, I determine which recruitment strategies to use for all positions throughout the Houston Methodist system and am responsible for our administering employment compliance and proposing diversity initiatives,” French ex plains. “Besides the various education and certification requirements that are specified for each position, we seek candidates who align with our organizational I CARE values of Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence. In conjunction with the appropriate education and training, these values help our staff create a safe, quality environment for our patients and help set us apart from other hospitals.”
Houston Methodist has approximately 17,500 employees throughout its system, which includes seven hospitals, three emergency care centers, two imaging centers, and a research institute.
“The most surprising thing about Houston Methodist is that even though we are a relatively large, world renowned healthcare organization, we still enjoy a family type of atmosphere where employees are generally respected and our coworkers are sincerely interested in the well-being of each other,” says French.
He advises students to consistently network with industry professionals online and in person in order to learn more about opportunities and what it takes to be successful. Volunteering for assignments and committees are a good way to give you exposure and experience, he explains.
Learning from mistakes is also critical. “I have made my share of mistakes as most people have,” notes French. “The key is to review the results whether they are positive or negative and apply what you’ve learned to future opportunities. Continuous improvement should be a goal for anyone who wishes to advance in his or her profession. Some of the best lessons can be obtained from determining the source of a problem and being able to address it going forward.”
French also advises students to develop professional networks. “I’ve been through two layoffs in my career,” he says. “Although I have been able to eventually secure employment each time, the stress and uncertainty can negatively impact different aspects of your life if the process is not managed properly. Lessons learned are to always maintain contact with your network and work to continue to expand it. The support and guidance one could receive from unexpected sources may surprise. It is also important to understand the needs of others so that you may be a potential source for them as well.”
Through the trials and uncertainties, French has reached a purposeful place. “I enjoy working and interacting with diverse and engaged populations. Human resources allows me the opportunity to pursue my passion, which is to develop and implement strategies that enable employees to perform at a high level and become successful in their roles.”
“I would choose this career again without a doubt,” says Cassandra Willis-Abner, assistant hospital director, operations and corporate director of service excellence at the University of Michigan Health System.
One of 24,000 employees, Willis- Abner supervises 75 across three departments of responsibility. As such, she has key insight into unlocking the door to this sector.
“Gain experience and exposure to various areas of the health care industry,” says Willis-Abner. “There are so many options in healthcare. Understanding those options and narrowing down the best environment early on will propel your success in the sector.”
Willis-Abner’s career choice allows her to combine her interest in healthcare with her leadership skills.
“As the director of a health center, I was the youngest person in the facility, but I was the boss of everyone in the facility,” says Willis-Abner, referring to a previous position. “ I had to quickly prove myself as being a leader that people respected, trusted, and desired to follow. I did this by always being professional and remaining humble, while also showing my intellectual capacity and emotional intelligence.”
Today, Willis-Abner works to create ideal experiences for patients, families, and employees of the University of Michigan Health System, so it’s the only place where patients want to receive their care and the only place where employees want to work.
“I love the amazing people who make up our organization and the incredible work that is done every day to impact the health and wellness of the patients we serve,” she says. “I also love being in the forefront of creating the future of healthcare through research and education.”
The organization looks for compassionate, service oriented, continuous learners, and problem solvers. “We are huge, which means that there are so many different ways that people impact the lives of patients and their families,” acknowledges Willis-Abner.
Ronald Peterson, director, corporate compliance and audit, for Tampa General Hospital (TGH), works at a place that never sleeps.
“Being a 24 hours a day/seven days a week operation, the hospital is like a mini version of a city that never sleeps,” says Peterson. “With that come the challenges associated with a city.”
To meet those unremitting challenges, TGH seeks a certain skill set in its new hires. “TGH looks for people with effective and positive interpersonal skills, which will allow them to interact in a caring, helpful, and effective manner with patients, family members, the public, and fellow employees,” states Peterson. “Staff is expected to communicate well, both verbally and in writing, to have good analytical and problem solving skills, to possess proficient computer application skills, and to be capable of adapting and embracing a continuously changing work environment.”
If you want to join the staff of 6,000, Peterson has some advice. “When possible, take a semester to do an internship in your field of interest. Get active with affiliated clubs or organizations in your field of interest. Grades still matter for entry level positions. The job market continues to be a competitive market. Given that it has not changed, employers have to have objective criteria to evaluate job candidates on. It is not the only criteria used, but grades are still important.”
Prior to Peterson’s arrival at the hospital, there was not a compliance and audit function. “I had to develop the function,” he says. “This required me to invest additional time in creating an infrastructure for the department, increase my knowledge base through attendance at educational conferences specific to the function and seek advice from persons already in the field. It was very challenging to establish the department and at the same time prioritize my time to address critical issues as they surfaced at the hospital.”
Peterson likes the idea of working in an environment that helps people through healing and brings new life into the community. “Many would view accounting as a very boring profession,” he says. “However, there are many facets of accounting to choose from. I choose to be a certified public accountant (CPA) and initially worked at CPA firm that audited companies from a variety of industries. I audited hospitals while in public accounting and became interested in the field. My background and experience helped me tremendously in making the transition to the healthcare industry.”
And whatever your role, recognize that connecting is key.
“Don’t allow your minority status to influence how you interact with people,” he asserts. “In today’s environment, companies are looking for people who can effectively do the job and have the traits and skills to work with people.”
For Patricia Henderson, hospital physician relations manager at Beth Israel Medical Center, her profession is personal.
“During my college years when a friend of mine became ill and passed away, I remember visiting her at the hospital and watching how the staff cared for her,” recalls Anderson. “ I felt like she didn’t get the best care possible because she was uninsured. That’s when I realized that I wanted to be in a position to create positive changes in the healthcare sector, and that became the basis for my future academic and professional pursuits.”
To facilitate top quality care for everyone, Henderson works at one of the nation’s top medical centers.
“Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is one of the nation’s preeminent academic medical centers, affiliated with Harvard Medical School and ranked each year as a ‘Best Hospital’ by U.S. News and World Report in multiple specialties,” says Henderson. “We provide high quality healthcare and cutting edge research programs where scientific discoveries are helping to transform medical care improving human health. BIDMC is known for their spirit of compassion and concern, I know this for sure because my dad went into cardiac arrest during a bowling event, and, brought to another institution via ambulance for care, I had a lack of confidence in the care that he was receiving, and asked to have my dad transferred to BIDMC. When he arrived, he was treated just like he was their dad, with the spirit of compassion and concern as this institution is known for. It’s a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by a diverse workforce who share the same common goal; improve the lives of others. It’s an environment that empowers you to do your best.”
At BIDMC, Henderson strategically plans and implements outreach efforts focusing on physicians, community groups, and other potential referral sources in the hospitals target market with the goal of maximizing/increasing referrals for both inpatient and outpatient services. She provides intelligence to appropriate hospital departments, works with hospital leadership team, directors, and key hospital administrators monitoring physician concerns, and enhances operations so that referring physicians continue to consider Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center the premier destination for their referrals.
“Take every opportunity to broaden your skill set and experience as much as possible,” says Henderson. “Volunteer at the institution that you would like to be employed at and get to know the industry and culture, as this will give you a glimpse into how your talents and expertise could be utilized to add value. Develop your soft skills; soft skill equate to people skills.”
If you’re hired by BIDMC, you’ll work at a place with heart. “BIDMC sponsor’s many community programs, but there’s one that’s dear to my heart— the Red Sox Scholars Program,” says Henderson. “This program rewards 25 academically talented but economically disadvantaged Boston Public School 5th graders $10,000 in college scholarships. BIDMC has been the proud presenting sponsor of the program with BIDMC staff Medical Champions from all backgrounds, occupations and departments who are interested in helping a child learn about the educational and career opportunities at the Medical Center.”
Ed Jimenez, chief operating officer and senior vice president for UF Health Shands Hospital, is responsible for the operations of a $1.5 billion hospital system.
One of 8,000 employees, Jimenez will become Interim CEO of UF Health Shands Hospital effective July 1, 2014. In both roles, he’s had hefty input in hiring. “We value those with a strong commitment to patient care and to an organization that values teamwork and its mission of doing the right thing.”
That commitment also extends to its employees.
“There are 6,000 hospitals across the country,” says Jimez. “UF Health has the tenth most sick patients. Patients come here for our talent and our expertise and the hope we offer them. We’re a great hospital in a small town, not a large city, and we’re able to draw patients from far away. They come to us, not because they simply live nearby, but because of what we do. You can’t take care of those who are most ill without having a strong commitment to patient care by the talented individuals who work here.”
Jimenez finds running a hospital without a clinical background challenging, but a worthwhile challenge.
“Running a hospital without having a clinical background is hard,” he says. “You’re naturally at a disadvantage, yet you have to know how to make decisions about patients and their care. As a result, this can be a challenge, but a worthwhile challenge to undertake. This challenge is the reason that I have an unending desire to read clinical literature, talk to doctors, ask them questions, and understand what’s going on each and every day. I think all hospital management staff should have this insatiable desire to better understand the clinical complexities and realities of the hospital world.”
Jimenez urges students to work on their soft skills. “Students must focus on good people skills,” he insists. “They need to be able to think on their feet. They must be willing to learn on a regular basis, a daily basis, and do so with a level of confidence in themselves and in their work.”
To become a leader in this field, “decide what’s in you before you get into hospital management,” says Jimenez. “Pinpoint the very reason why you want to be a healthcare administrator. If you don’t know this about yourself, you can’t be effective.”
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