Less than two years into her professional career, Terika Richardson faced her most difficult assignment in 2006 when she closed down a hospital.
I could write a book about it, says Richardson, who spent eight months as acting administrator converting North Virginia Community Hospital in Arlington into an urgent-care center. I was given a chance to work on the opposite end, where you are ending services. It was tough because the physicians, employees and community still had loyalty to the facility.
It was an eye-opening experience for Richardson, who had wanted to be a doctor since she was 7 years old. I met this amazing physician. She was sharp, focused and what I thought embodied a woman, she says. The physician treated her father, a firefighter, for chronic back pain.
Once in college as a pre-med student, however, Richardson realized she was more interested in a management career. She received a bachelors degree in biopsychology and cognitive science in 2000 and then earned a masters degree in public health from the University of Michigan in 2004.
Having a background in public health provides me with many tools to help manage people, departments and coming up with programmatic elements, she says.
As associate administrator at 187-bed Reston (Va.) Hospital Center, owned by for-profit chain HCA, Richardson was in charge of coming up with a solution to demands by on-call obstetricians that they be paid for treating uncompensated-care patients in the emergency room.
With the vice president of medical affairs, we came up with a plan for their needs and ours, she says. It was a very tough situation for me as a young administrator. They (doctors) were very upset.
Working with other staffers, Richardson also developed a $7.1 million oncology business plan to increase inpatient and surgical volume and crafted an outpatient-surgery-improvement program that enabled the hospital to increase the number of procedures by becoming more efficient with surgeon turnaround times and first-surgery starts. She also chaired the committee that developed an emergency-preparedness plan that ensured operations, policy, personnel and facility were in regulatory compliance.
But does a background in public health come into conflict with the reality of delivering cost-effective healthcare?
We are faced with a quandary at times because there are so many people without insurance and access to affordable healthcare, Richardson says. Our goal and mission as administrators is how to develop competent, cultural care, while keeping it affordable and efficacious.