More nurses, doctors asked to lead hospitals

At two Texas health systems, promoting clinicians is a priority

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jim Fuquay this week explained why a growing number of health systems are turning to nurses and doctors for executive leadership, spotlighting the clinician leaders at the two biggest systems in Texas' Fort-Worth/Arlington area.

In Texas, two hospitals promote clinicians to the C-suite

At Texas Health Hospital, President Lillie Biggins is a registered nurse (RN) who launched her career in the ICU. Meanwhile, the head of operations for the southwest region of the hospital's health system—Texas Health Resources—is physician Jeff Canose. In 2012, the system adopted a policy of promoting physicians and nurses into executive positions in its effort "enhance our ability to connect the dots along the care continuum," according to CEO Doug Hawthorne.

When Biggins and Canose stepped into their roles, they pushed for a new, $57 million ED building that would triple the size of the existing facility, which had become crowded.

"Just financially, we would have gone through a renovation in place…but the length of time it would take, the impact on patients" had to be considered first, says Biggins, adding that it did not make sense "to have patients lining the hallways" during construction. The new ED is slated to open in January.

  • Building a leadership pipeline. Join us later this month for a webconference outlining best practices from the Physician Leadership Effectiveness Compendium.

Nearby, Baylor All Saints Medical Center is following Texas Health's lead: It named a physician as CEO this year. David Klein spent 14 years practicing as a surgeon before getting an MBA and switching to management for the last 10 years.

"There are certainly superb hospital leaders who are not clinicians," says Klein, adding that his background as a surgeon "has been beneficial for me in my relationship with my medical staff, seeing both sides of the healthcare equation." The MBA helps "with strategic planning and growth."

In preparation for the next generation of leaders, Baylor has also begun offering a Nursing Fellowship at Southern Methodist University aimed at building business skills.

The broader trend

The two hospitals are representative of a broader trend for hospital management, according to health care recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates. Merritt Senior Vice President Travis Singleton says that hospitals today are requesting clinicians when recruiting for top management roles.

"We have seen it the last two or three years …[as] our reimbursement system is changing," says Singleton. He adds that "we're seeing a renaissance in executive training for physicians" as well (Fuquay, Star-Telegram, 10/12).

Lessons from the C-suite

Judy Persichilli, the interim president and CEO of Catholic Health East-Trinity Health, explains how the CHE-Trinity merger came to be, why nurses can make terrific leaders, and why her father was initially skeptical of her career path.

Read our interview with Judy.

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