After winning her third gold medal in cycling time trials at the Rio Olympics, Kristin Armstrong is returning to her "dream job" as director of community health at St. Luke's Health System's West Region in Idaho.
Armstrong, who turned 43 the day after winning gold in Rio, is the only cyclist—male or female—to ever win the same event in three consecutive Olympics, and is only the second American woman to win three gold medals in any one Olympic event.
While her accomplishments have made her a hometown hero and a prominent figure in the cycling world, Armstrong does not have the endorsements that would make her a wealthy household name.
Instead, she works at St. Luke's, according to NPR. Last fall, she cut back to 16 hours a week at St. Luke's so she could train for the games and also retain her family's health insurance.
With Olympic cycling behind her—she is retiring from the sport—Armstrong is returning to her job as director of community health for St. Luke's Health System's West Region, where she'll continue to connect physicians with disease prevention programs.
"It's a dream job," she said. "And I'll go on with my legacy—being [able] to help improve the health of people in Idaho." Armstrong added, "Working at a great hospital in Boise, Idaho, and being a mom has been my secret weapon. It provides me balance and it keeps me on track and it keeps me super focused."
Health system CEO: Armstrong's success has takeaways for improving health care
St. Luke's CEO David Pate wrote in a blog post that "Kristin's perseverance is inspiring, and reminds us all how we can always aim higher."
Pate outlined six key takeaways from Armstrong's career as an athlete that can help improve health care.
Set ambitious goals and apply sharp focus to achieve them
Just as Armstrong utilized "razor-sharp focus" to win three Olympic titles, the health care industry can achieve the highest standards in quality and safety through "dogged determination," Pate said.
"Healthy competition" in health care—as in sports—can help to drive "higher levels of performance" by identifying areas for improvement and motivating stakeholders to achieve fast and efficient results.
According to Pate, "Complacency is health care's enemy."
Noting that Armstrong always sought to improve, Pate said that hospitals also should not settle for what has been achieved.
Athletes like Armstrong track their performance and measure it against personal and global benchmarks. Health care needs to do the same, Pate said.
"We know that what gets measured, gets improved," he said. "In health care, we use national and worldwide benchmarks of performance to drive continual improvement."
Transforming the health care system "is a bold vision" and inherently comes with detractors who say it can't be accomplished, Pate said. But just as Armstrong trained through her some criticism, health care needs to do the same, he added.
According to Pate, Armstrong's generosity is what led her to join St. Luke's as director of community health "because she wants kids to be healthy and to get the most out of life."
Inspired by Armstrong's generosity, Pate said the health system:
- Employs workers who also serve as mentors;
- Gives back to its community; and
- Shares best practices with other health systems (Modern Healthcare, 8/20; Chappell, "The Torch," NPR, 8/10; Pate, "Dr. Pate's Prescription for Change," St. Luke's, 8/16).
Go for the gold: Get our best practices for performance improvement
Performance improvement seems simple at first: identify a problem, then take steps to solve it. But organizations often tell us their change initiatives struggle to get off the ground.
We've reviewed years of Advisory Board research to understand why improvement projects typically fail—and identified the eight steps crucial to any successful change initiative.