I was recognized this past summer as being one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare. Since then, I have been asked, “How did you achieve it?” The main piece of advice I would give anyone is that you must have a passion for making a difference in the industry. What follows are a few tips on this topic that I shared recently with my colleagues.
Tips from a top achiever
The first step is developing the ability to create influence. A good place to start is inside your organization, growing your skills by volunteering to lead a team outside your area of expertise or even an organizationwide initiative.
Also, look outside the walls of your organization. You can get involved through:
- State and local initiatives: These can include collaborative efforts, such as health information exchanges; state and local hospital associations; or an appointment to a state council or committee.
- Professional societies: In these, you can join committees, speak publicly on your areas of expertise, run for offices or committee chairmanships and generally serve your peers and impart your knowledge. Industry organizations—such as CHIME within healthcare IT—also can enable you to “Take it to the Hill,” where you can get to know your senators and representatives. Hospitals themselves often host visits, and you should be there. In addition, join delegations testifying on legislative or regulatory issues.
The second step is creating knowledge. Become an expert by fully understanding some issues that have high-profile impact. You can start within your organization then move externally to expand your expertise in key areas, such as:
- Local and state issues: Know the issues and players and contribute to the solutions. The CEO of your competitors should know you.
- National issues: Yes, this means learning to read the Federal Register and doing analysis. Step in further by joining policy analysis committees.
Because the recognition I received from Modern Healthcare was for being a woman who's making an impact in the industry, I will briefly share some thoughts on gender in the workplace. I am going to show my age here. I have watched a kinder, gentler workplace emerge over my 33 years in the industry. Cussing, smoke-filled rooms and bullying are “out”—sensitivity and empathy are “in” as desirable strengths. Roles have changed. Some men stay at home, some women are primary breadwinners and others share duties 50/50. How do we make each comfortable in these evolving roles and build strong high performing teams? Here are some key values for leaders in organizations.
- Boys and girls must still learn to play together. That doesn't necessarily mean everyone has to golf or enjoy manicures, but find some common interests with your peers.
- Don't be a potty mouth, but don't be a prude.
- You can be best friends with an opposite sex colleague.
- Don't let passion for an issue be mistaken for aggression or uncontrolled emotions.
- Humor disengages discomfort in the differences—ladies, don't be afraid to make fun of yourself if you fall off your high-heeled shoes walking to a podium!
- Develop a reasonable work/home life balance, but realize that there will be tradeoffs that must be acknowledged in advance, and accepted or accommodated. You'll need to be a team player; be there when the team needs you, even after hours. You'll need good support at home if there are dependents in the house. And realize that growing influence will breed travel and after-hours meetings.
Pamela McNuttSenior vice president and chief information officerMethodist Health SystemDallas
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