You started your career as a nurse in an AtlantiCare critical-care unit before becoming a hospital administrator. How has your clinical background affected your perspective as an executive leader?
I’m very proud of being a registered nurse, and I’ve been a nurse a very long time. Especially over the last two-plus years, teamwork and the ability to really understand the clinical experience and understand what the caregivers are going through, given my nursing background, have been incredibly helpful. And it has created a foundation for me to be able to serve our organization and, ultimately, the community.
How would you describe your leadership style? And what kind of culture do you want to foster at AtlantiCare?
I’ll keep talking about teamwork. Teamwork is the dream work for me as a person, but also as a leader. And it’s one of our key values at AtlantiCare. As a leader, I aspire to be able to listen, to be empathetic, to really understand what’s happening in the moment, and to support the leaders who surround me. At the end of the day, I was a nurse manager. I’ve worked every level of administration and healthcare. I can’t stress enough that when you’re leading an organization, it’s really important that you’re supporting the people who are doing those tough, critical jobs serving our patients and their families, and you’re getting out of their way sometimes, so they can do the work that they know needs to be done.
You’re talking about empathy as a core value of leadership. How do you look for that in the other leaders you bring on at the health system and make sure that’s going down the ranks, even to the front lines?
As a nurse, and as a woman, I think I have a little insight into getting closer and asking questions, as well as observing how people present themselves. Healthcare is one of those industries where it’s 24/7. You can’t always be so ticked and tied because it’s live and messy and engaging all at the same time. It’s pretty easy to get a read on where people are coming from and see how important it is to be able to put yourself in that person’s situation, how to read the situation, and understand that sometimes our goals or our agenda have to take a backseat to what is happening in front of you. That’s especially true in patient care, because we’re here to serve our patients and their families. We need to take their cues and follow through on what’s important to them.
How has that worked with burnout among the staff? And what’s employee satisfaction like for you?
These last few years have taken all of us on a journey that none of us wanted to take. I’ve been incredibly inspired and just amazed at the level of commitment that I’ve seen every hour of every day across all of our organizations. The compassion and the focus on really putting patients’ and families’ needs first were paramount.
I think as administrators, we really needed to pay attention to what things we could do to support the staff, and they came in many different sizes and shapes. One of the things that was really clear to me is what was working in certain fields and professions didn’t necessarily always cross over. What registered nurses needed in a COVID unit was different than what the EMS team needed, and different from what maybe our physicians and our administrators needed. Everybody went through a lot. Everybody had some level of suffering and loss, some more dramatic than others. We had to keep getting up and coming to work, because our community and our patients needed us.