By Kim Bassett
I have been a nurse for over 30 years. I started my career knowing nursing was the only job for me. I loved being at the bedside working with patients and families. Helping others was my passion. My career turned from direct patient care 20 years ago when I became a Chief Nurse and then, again, 13 years ago when I became a hospital CEO. I am often asked how and why I made the change from nursing to hospital leadership. I always start by saying the same thing, “I rely more on my nursing background when managing my hospital than my MBA.”
Merging clinical background with management know-how has definitely improved my decision-making abilities and thus effectively improving patient care. Although you don’t have to be a nurse or have clinical background to be a hospital executive, I certainly encourage healthcare providers to consider healthcare administration.
Administrators with clinical experience:
- speak the same language as the doctors, nurses and other clinical staff. This ability to understand from first-hand experience what the clinicians are dealing with on a daily basis gives you credibility. Clinical background can help create an environment where the caregivers feel understood and heard.
- improve project management hospital-wide. Former clinicians have hands-on patient care experience which provides a wealth of background knowledge to the inner workings of different patient-centered departments. This can be tremendously helpful when projects such as painting or other renovations occur that have the potential to disrupt day-to-day activities.
- eliminate waste without reducing the quality of patient-care. Clinicians know where to look for cost-savings. Often lower-cost alternatives are available that serve the same purpose and provide the same level of care. While the benefit of this type of cost-savings may not be immediately visible, over time the savings becomes exponential.
- possess a true appreciation for the work caregivers provide. As a nurse, I realize that caregivers give a part of themselves when caring for patients and families. This level of care and involvement can be exhausting for staff. Having been in their shoes, I am acutely aware of what our staff goes through and use this understanding as I make decisions.
Certainly there are great administrators that have no clinical background. They surround themselves with amazing teams of people with clinical background that fill in any knowledge gaps. My clinical background has given me an advantage as a hospital administrator. My decisions are intuitively based on patient care and outcomes. I strongly encourage anyone with a healthcare background to give hospital leadership a try. Healthcare leadership is another way you can truly make a difference.