I read with much interest your cover story "Reinventing the COO" (July 6, p. 30) because it confirms again the findings of several recent national studies by Witt/Kieffer, Ford, Hadelman & Lloyd regarding senior nurse executives. As the story notes, downsizing organizations are shrinking their senior management ranks through phase-outs of the chief operating officer role. We have found that it is the SNE or chief nursing officer, typically, who takes on the operating/management duties of the former COO.
As more SNEs take on COO responsibilities, they are developing strong operations and hands-on management experience that will make them ever more viable candidates for other senior positions. Just as we see the M.D./MBA emerging as a CEO candidate for many organizations, the R.N./MBA also is being seen as a successful contender for CEO and COO positions. Given how things are going, it isn't impossible to imagine a "back to the future" scenario in which hospitals reinvent the model of 40 or 50 years ago and once again are run by physicians and nurses-the people with the greatest clinical knowledge and experience. This time around, however, the physicians and nurses also will be seasoned executives-no starched white coats and caps for this crowd.
Kathleen Ballein, vice president
Witt/Kieffer, Ford, Hadelman & Lloyd, Oak Brook, Ill.