5 questions with Rosanna Morris, interim CEO of Nebraska Medicine

The leader takes time to discuss her love of Nebraska, her definition of "Midwest insulation" and why her motto is "everything is possible."

Leading the largest hospital in a 200-mile radius presents a unique challenge, but for Rosanna Morris, RN, interim CEO of Omaha-based Nebraska Medicine, that challenge is happily accepted.

Ms. Morris was named to her current position March 23. She has been with the organization since 2007 and has served in various roles including CNO and COO. In her current role, she became the first female Hispanic CEO of a major health system in the region, as well as the first nurse to serve as CEO of Nebraska Medicine or any of its affiliated partners.

Nebraska Medicine represents the integration of The Nebraska Medical Center, Bellevue Medical Center and UNMC Physicians. U.S. World & News Report ranked it the No. 1 hospital in Nebraska in its 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 hospital rankings, and Becker's named it one of the "100 Greatest Hospitals in America" in 2015. The system has 676 licensed beds.

Ms. Morris took the time to discuss her love of Nebraska, her definition of "Midwest insulation" and why her motto is "everything is possible."

Question: What is interesting about your market?

Rosanna Morris: I refer to where we are as "Midwest insulation." What I mean by that is our timing is a little delayed. This doesn't mean we're not cognizant of the issues [in healthcare today], but we still have the benefit of having a relatively strong payer mix in Nebraska and the region.

[Nebraska Medicine is] the largest academic medical center in a 200-mile radius and the largest hospital in the state. We tend to function as a market leader and we need to be proactive in that regard. We're surrounded by relatively large healthcare systems to the north, east and south, and we've been looking closely to see what alliances or partnerships may behoove us in the future. For example, we recently had CHI Health come to Nebraska and acquire Creighton University Medical Center and Alegent Health, which was successful. We have market influences coming closer to where we are, whereas previously we'd functioned aside from that. It's a dynamic time in a positive environment.

Q: What inspires you?

RM: Professionally, what we do is not easy and the risks are incredibly high. As CEO, I'm learning the decisions you make have such a profound impact not only on the people you employ and work with, but also on the communities you serve. That is inspirational to me and it challenges me to think differently about how choices affect our colleagues. I want to make an improvement [at Nebraska Medicine] that's long-lasting and has a positive impact. I want to be able to make this a better place than when I first came. In addition, Nebraska's a great place. All of that gets me up in the morning and keeps me here late at night.

On a personal level, my husband is a transplant surgeon, so we have a common thread of being healthcare professionals. We have six kids, two of whom are adopted. Now that four of them are adults, seeing them make a positive impact in the world is inspirational.

Q: How do you maintain motivation despite obstacles?

RM: I stay motivated by remaining focused. There are so many distracters right now, internally and externally, and you can easily find yourself or your team tackling everything and accomplishing less than you want.

I once had to narrow down strategic priorities for a 90-day strategic plan. After having gone through the prioritization, people on the team were motivated to say, "We did it! Now what's next?" It's about celebrating the successes but also noting the things we didn't do well. It's always in terms of "we." We own it — the successes and the failures. Everything we do is as part of our team.

Q: Who is one of your role models? How and why does this person impact your daily life?

RM: A "public role model" is Sheryl Sandberg. In 2013 she wrote the book Lean In. The book was given to me by one of my direct reports, who wrote on the inside, "I hope you find this of value. You're my Sheryl Sandberg." In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses not only how she got to be a high-ranking female executive, but also the journey for her professionally and personally. She talks about the balance between her professional life and her personal life. She also advocates for women, which I apply to women in healthcare. Her point is that as women, we should strive to better ourselves and consider the impact in whatever role we play.

On a personal level, another one of my role models is my husband. He's a transplant surgeon and has worked hard all his life. We started working together and then we married one another. This is the second marriage for both of us. He had three kids, I had one, and we adopted our twins together. I have learned so much about caring for patients through him. Some people say not to talk about your work life at home, but we've broken that rule a thousand times. We find support in each other and we can relate to each other. Early in our relationship, he told me that in transplant surgery, the philosophy is "everything is possible." I learned from him that if it's worth doing, it's possible.

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