Dia Nichols

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL FEATURE - —Rich Daly

Like much of the rest of the coun­try, John Ran­dolph Med­i­cal Cen­ter was strug­gling fi­nan­cially in 2011. The HCA hospi­tal in Hopewell, Va., was hem­or­rhag­ing cash, and the state of its bal­ance sheet pre­sented one of the first ma­jor chal­lenges for its young CEO, ac­cord­ing to a com­pany of­fi­cial. But ag­gres­sive man­age­ment changes un­der­taken by Dia Nichols, 37, demon­strated why ex­ec­u­tives at the Nashville-based hospi­tal chain ap­pointed him CEO in Au­gust 2009.

The fa­cil­ity “went from los­ing money to be­ing in the black,” Mar­garet Lewis, pres­i­dent of the HCA Cap­i­tal Division, says about the 2011 down­turn that was re­solved by 2012.

“And he did that while main­tain­ing its high qual­ity scores,” she says.

Lewis, who has worked with Nichols for eight years, specif­i­cally cred­ited Nichols’ de­vel­op­ment of an ex­pense man­age­ment plan that iden­ti­fied a range of cuts at the hospi­tal and his ef­forts to re­struc­ture it to meet the ar­eas evolv­ing de­mand for dif­fer­ent health­care ser­vices.

But also crit­i­cal, she says, was Nichols’ skill in as­sem­bling teams of pro­fes­sion­als with di­verse skill sets and trust­ing them to reach the goals he lays out. “I be­lieve in sur­round­ing your­self with qual­ity per­son­nel and then get­ting out of their way to let them work,” Nichols says.

Nichols says that kind of big-pic­ture ap­proach to hospi­tal man­age­ment was in­spired by a trip years ear­lier to a topranked New Orleans res­tau­rant. When Nichols be­gan to ask for a spe­cific change to his or­der, the server in­ter­rupted him to as­sure Nichols that there was very lit­tle they wouldn’t do to make his visit a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Ob­vi­ously, that was some­one who worked for a leader who said, ‘Here’s the vi­sion, now let me get out of the way and let you get it done,’ ” Nichols says.

Nichols’ ap­proach to lead­er­ship also in­cludes keep­ing a sharp eye out for qual­ity can­di­dates to join his ex­ec­u­tive teams.

For ex­am­ple, Frankye My­ers is the chief nurs­ing of­fi­cer at John Ran­dolph, but when she met Nichols six years ago, My­ers was di­rec­tor of the car­diac unit at Chip­pen­ham Hospi­tal in Rich­mond, Va.,

She cred­ited Nichols’ influence in her en­rolling in HCA’s CNO de­vel­op­ment pro­gram af­ter hav­ing worked as a nurse for 12 years. “He was very in­stru­men­tal in my up­ward mo­bil­ity in the com­pany,” My­ers says. “Some­times peo­ple are able to see in you what you do not see in your­self.”

Nichols, too, says he’s work­ing to keep up with changes brought on by the in­dus­try’s “trans­parency era.” The emer­gence of provider re­port cards, open­ing price and qual­ity data­bases and other changes are re­quir­ing ex­ec­u­tives to change their think­ing, he says.

“I be­lieve in sur­round­ing your­self with qual­ity per­son­nel and then get­ting out of their way.”

37, CEO, John Ran­dolph Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Hopewell, Va.

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