Several female healthcare leaders recently shared with Beckers their best advice for people trying to grow in their healthcare careers.
Here’s a breakdown of advice shared by six leaders:
Editor’s note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.
Jill Hoggard Green, PhD, RN. President and CEO of the Queen’s Health Systems (Honolulu): It is such a privilege to be able to lead in healthcare. You’re doing a mission that is essential to individuals, their families and our community. You will find tremendous joy and tremendous opportunity, but it will also be challenging and difficult. So, in terms of advice I’d say, take care of yourself, your own health and well-being, and your family’s health and well-being. This is very important so you can give strength to your career. Second, it’s important that you balance strength, courage and humility. Reflect on questions like, what did I learn today? And what could I do differently? Even if it’s hard to say, “Wow, I could have done that differently,” or, “I could have done that better,” great — you reflected on it and learned something. That is an amazing journey in your life that will open up so many doors that you never imagined.
I never imagined that I would be a CEO of an amazing health system in the state of Hawaii. That wasn’t what I imagined when I started my career. But every day I grew. I continuously learned, and the path kept unfolding in front of me. So seek your path. Seek what is going to be. … It’s not the role. It’s not saying, “I want to be the CEO. I want to be X or Y or Z.” You want to lead. You want to develop. You want to see something better and more, creating help with the people that you love, your community, the people that you serve. When you do that, it’s an endless opportunity to do good things and make a difference.
Holly McCormack, DNP, RN. CEO of Cottage Hospital (Woodsville, NH): My advice to emerging leaders is to surround yourself with a diverse team of varied backgrounds. Take the time to learn everyone’s strengths. Allow them each to step forward and shine. Create a culture in your organization where feedback and questions are valued and encouraged at all levels. I am learning that it takes time to build that level of trust. I am confident that the time spent will pay dividends in the end.
Jamie Nordhagen, RN. Director of Capacity Management and Patient Representatives at UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.): Network, network, network. Creating relationships within your organization, across departments and disciplines outside of your reporting structure, is essential to broaden your perspective and increase your sphere of influence. Create relationships across the industry through professional organizations and conferences. Be active outside of the industry within the community your organization serves. Serve on boards and commissions. Do not underestimate the importance of creating relationships, as they generate future professional opportunities and will be key to your success.
Intentionally cultivate personal resilience. Healthcare leadership is a marathon. Figure out early in your career how to manage stress and decompress. Stress management is a learned skill that takes intention and practice. Find a mentor or coach to help you on your journey.
Invest in your people. As you build your own high-functioning team, intentional engagement with them as a professional and individual will have a ten-fold return on investment. Do not underestimate the importance of building trust and hardwiring psychological safety. Invest in their professional development. Be open to giving up control and celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities. The quality of your team’s work will pay dividends and will cultivate loyalty to you and your organization.
Hard wire constant learning and reflection. Whether it is formally through graduate degrees, conferences and certifications or informally through reading journals, networking and hallway conversations…embrace lifelong learning as a frame of mind.
Allison Roditi. Chief Administrator of the Sports Medicine Institute, Hospital for Special Surgery (New York City): I think there are several key pieces of advice for emerging healthcare leaders:
1. Know your skill set and be able to talk about it, but also know what skills you want to acquire. That will help you find projects and roles that will allow you to showcase your talent while you develop tools that you don’t currently have (or maybe are not quite as comfortable with yet).
2. Have a goal. You can’t move forward in your career unless you know where you are going. The path will definitely not be straight, and it will be full of twists and turns. But having a goal will always be a guide for moving you forward on that path. It’s also okay if that goal changes, as long as you have something to aim for.
3. Always network, because you never know where your next opportunity may come from. Personally, all of my roles after my first one have come through a personal connection in my network. And it’s great to have a variety of people in your network who you can reach out to when you want advice on a project, job or volunteer opportunity. Having a diverse network allows you to get exposure to a variety of viewpoints and experience, which can be really helpful in both your professional and personal life.
Michelle Stansbury. Vice President of IT Innovation at Houston Methodist: Never settle for status quo — continually challenge yourself to search for new technology that can improve overall patient and clinical experiences and increase efficiencies.
Phoebe Yang. Board Member of Stewardship Trustees at CommonSpirit Health System (Chicago): Always remember and center yourself on why you entered health care as a profession in the first place. Ultimately, most of us are inspired by the intrinsic desire to help patients and communities stay healthy and to improve the healthcare system for all. That is our “north star.” Sometimes, we face unimaginable challenges, have to make difficult decisions, and have to take risks we never thought we’d have to take. In those moments, go back to your north star. Don’t become paralyzed by the notion of risk in your decision making. In healthcare, many decisions have traditionally been seen as binary calculations of life and death — many decisions are, but many more are not. The wise will discern which decisions require extensive analysis and which paths can be taken and tried to see where they may lead. Agility and timeliness in acting on the information you have is better than paralysis. With most decisions, if an approach doesn’t work, you can pivot and adapt. Innovation and growth always involve some degree of risk, but paralysis is often the riskiest position of all.