Ru­ral path

N.D. hospi­tal pro­vided de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties

Modern Healthcare - - From The C-suite -

It was Sept. 9, 1975. I was a diploma nurse just one year out of col­lege, and my su­per­vi­sor tapped me on the shoul­der and said, “I need you to cover for an up­com­ing ma­ter­nity leave in a dif­fer­ent depart­ment.” This tem­po­rary cov­er­age in the chronic dial­y­sis unit lasted more than 11 years and was the beginning of my lead­er­ship jour­ney. Lit­tle did I know that be­ing the med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the dial­y­sis unit would pro­vide the frame­work for my lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment.

Fast for­ward to 1984. The CEO of the or­ga­ni­za­tion walks into my of­fice and asks if I would con­sider a new po­si­tion as the di­rec­tor of qual­ity/risk and niche pro­gram de­vel­op­ment. This po­si­tion in­cluded a seat at the ad­min­is­tra­tive ta­ble. At that time, “C-suite” lan­guage had not be­come vogue.

Five years later, I re­ceived an­other per­sonal visit by the CEO ask­ing whether I would be­come the as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor/di­rec­tor of nurs­ing. This op­por­tu­nity for growth in one or­ga­ni­za­tion over 35 years causes great pause and re­flec­tion.

North Dakota has 50 providers of care. Th­ese providers vary greatly in size and scope. They in­clude acute-care, long-term acute­care, psy­chi­atric, crit­i­cal-ac­cess, state-owned and In­dian Health Ser­vice fa­cil­i­ties.

St. Alex­ius Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Bis­marck, N.D.—the first hospi­tal in the Dakota Ter­ri­tory—is a 263-bed ter­tiary-care fa­cil­ity. As a mem­ber of the C-suite for more than 20 years, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for ser­vant lead­er­ship were abun­dant. Sta­bil­ity in one or­ga­ni­za­tion, yet the abil­ity to pro­fes­sion­ally progress, was a grand demon­stra­tion by the hospi­tal’s spon­sor, Bene­dic­tine Sis­ters of the An­nun­ci­a­tion, of the value of com­mu­nity pres­ence as well as per­sonal and pro­fes­sional growth.

As a part of an even grander com­mu­nity, this C-suite po­si­tion pro­vided me the op­por­tu­nity to join con­ver­sa­tions that never be­fore in­cluded a nurse, and cer­tainly not a chief nurse ex­ec­u­tive from North Dakota.

As an ex­ec­u­tive, the health­care uni­verse be­came a lab­o­ra­tory. The abil­ity to search out, net­work and part­ner with other health­care providers pro­vided a means to iden­ti­fy­ing and de­ploy­ing “the best of the best” strate­gies for staff and pa­tients at the lo­cal level.

Serv­ing in aca­demic ca­pac­i­ties at the lo­cal and na­tional level as teacher and men­tor shed light and kept me based in re­al­ity that our youth and those who will fill our shoes in years to come are so bright and so com­pas­sion­ate; it af­firmed that we are in great hands.

Ru­ral Amer­ica pro­vides for nu­mer­ous ad­van­tages. North Dakota has been re­im­bursed much less than other states by Medi­care, yet the re­portable out­comes from our fa­cil­i­ties show our state rank­ing among the best in the na­tion— learn­ing to do more with less is in­nate in our cul­ture.

Ru­ral job op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist, as do the op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­fes­sional growth. Re­main­ing with one fa­cil­ity dur­ing one’s ca­reer yet pur­su­ing grad­u­ate and post-grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion out­side the im­me­di­ate area ex­panded the ex­ec­u­tives’ hori­zons and sig­nif­i­cant net­work op­por­tu­ni­ties. Health­care in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy has a fer­tile ground in North Dakota and is not for­eign to the C-suite. Based on the geo­graph­i­cal chal­lenges, us­ing telehealth in North Dakota has a his­tory of 30-plus years.

As a C-suite ex­ec­u­tive, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the de­vel­op­ment of health­care pol­icy is very com­mon. Lob­by­ing for ap­pro­pri­ate scopes of pro­fes­sional prac­tice, the na­tional nurse rein­vest­ment act as well as ad­e­quate fa­cil­ity re­im­burse­ment is sec­ond na­ture. Be­cause fewer names and faces ex­ist in this cir­cle, it re­minds me of the theme song from the sit­com “Cheers”—ev­ery­body knows your name.

Liv­ing in North Dakota has pro­vided me the abil­ity to in­flu­ence and par­tic­i­pate at many ta­bles, to en­cour­age change, to ed­u­cate the pub­lic and to be a part of a pro­fes­sion that de­sires be­yond a doubt to pro­vide qual­ity health­care. It is about “tak­ing that leap.”

I have great grat­i­tude for the spon­sors, my lead­er­ship team and staff that made my job easy. As I walk through a new door, the door to St. John’s Hospi­tal and Health Sys­tem, Spring­field, Mo., I en­ter with courage and great op­ti­mism. I will never for­get my ru­ral roots and how that shaped me into the health­care pro­fes­sional and pa­tient ad­vo­cate I am to­day. Linda Kn­odel is vice pres­i­dent and chief nurs­ing ex­ec­u­tive for St. John’s Hospi­tal and Health Sys­tem, Spring­field, Mo.

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