Can Hospital CEOs Find (and Redefine) Success in Centralized Health Systems?

Careerwise, it’s been a challenging few years for just about everyone in healthcare. Professionals have had to reestablish their footing in an era of government reform and shifting paradigms.

Count hospital CEOs among those being challenged, too. As a wave of consolidation washes over the industry, chief executives from what were previously standalone hospitals, clinics, and health centers now find themselves incorporated and integrated into large, centralized health systems. Often, these hospital CEOs are presented with dramatically different or even diminished roles. Some choose to retire, while others strive to adapt and learn new skills and practices. Many are turning to career coaches (such as Richard Metheny and our Leadership Solutions group) to help navigate unfamiliar territory.

Donna Padilla

Donna Padilla

As a result, CEOs are adapting, but it’s not an easy adjustment, says Donna Padilla. “With centralization, the [hospital] CEO role changes from overseeing specific functions to being a liaison,” Padilla told Becker’s Hospital Review last week. “It’s a lot more team-managing than we’ve seen before,” she says. Hospital CEOs are often still running their facilities but must communicate with and report to health system leaders on many functions. Their ability to “play in a bigger sandbox” will be crucial for future career success, Padilla says.

Andrew Chastain

Andrew Chastain

Many CEOs get discouraged by what they see as reduced responsibilities and status, Andrew Chastain told Health Leaders Media recently. The trick for these long-time executives will be to “redefine what success looks like,” Chastain says. An executive might not even retain a “CEO” title within a large, matrix-oriented system, he notes, but that doesn’t mean he or she can’t find a fulfilling role.

Repackaging Oneself

Hard as it might be, CEOs and senior executives may need to take an entirely new approach to career development and satisfaction within a centralized health system environment, agrees Adriane Willig. Writing in McKnight’s Long Term Care News, she offers up tips for CEOs and other leaders wanting to “repackage” themselves for a new era. Suggestions include:

Adriane Willig

Adriane Willig

  • Revise your mindset. Find a role that suits you even if the title isn’t “CEO” within the structure of a centralized health system.
  • Revise your messaging. In networking and interviewing, mention your ability to mentor, develop, transition, collaborate, and so forth. Use language that suggests a team orientation.
  • Emphasize your maturity. Show that you can hit the ground running in a new role with little or no hand-holding.

As Willig points out, healthcare consolidation and reform present many career challenges, but change can spell opportunity as well.

By Paul Thomas

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Guide to Healthcare Succession Planning

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