Advocate Aurora CNO Adrienne Schultz on her healthcare inspirations, the challenges of being a female leader and striking a work-life balance

Adrienne Schultz, MSN, RN, is relatively new to her position as vice president and CNO of Cudahy, Wis.-based Advocate Aurora St. Luke's South Shore, a role which she began in July. However, she brought with her more than 25 years of healthcare leadership experience.

Before joining Advocate Aurora, Ms. Schultz was vice president of patient care services and CNO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill. She was also previously assistant vice president of patient care services at CTCA and worked at Toledo, Ohio-based HCR ManorCare, one of the nation's largest providers of post-acute services and long-term care, before its 2018 sale to Toledo-based ProMedica health system.

Here, Ms. Schultz answers Becker's questions for women in healthcare leadership: 

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Question: Who had the biggest influence on your decision to go into healthcare?  

Adrienne Schultz: My mom and my grandmother. My mom is a nurse, and my grandmother was a midwife; the only one to serve her entire community in the Philippines. She used to tell me stories about people in her village paying her in chickens and eggs to deliver their babies. Often people did not have money to pay her; she just provided a much-needed service and expected nothing in return. It was truly about community, and people helping other people in the most basic of needs.    

Q: What do you enjoy most about being in the industry?

AS: When I first started out in nursing, it was the joy of helping people get better, feel better. I worked on a transplant unit as a new grad, and there was nothing like caring for people who had suffered with renal disease or liver failure, and watching them realize that they had a new lease on life. Helping them to understand their "new normal" and seeing their joy in receiving an organ transplant — it is truly life-changing for them. It made me appreciate my own health in a very different, very personal way.  I took care of many of these patients both pre- and post-transplant, so to get to go on that journey with them was amazing and fulfilling in so many ways.  

Now that I am further in my career, my joy has evolved to appreciate the way healthcare — and specifically nursing — has become more nimble and adapted to change. The technology, the medications, the public policy — it is all evolving at a record pace, and it has demonstrated to me the resiliency of healthcare providers to change with the evolving healthcare landscape while maintaining that core expectation of delivering excellence in their care.    

Q: What is the greatest challenge you face as a female leader?

AS: I have always been a working mom, and I've always worked hard to set the bar high for my performance while ensuring I maintain a healthy work-life balance. It's important for women to understand that they should never compromise their commitments to family, but it's all about how you communicate and negotiate to balance and meet your personal and professional needs. Being in my role, I feel it's important to set the example of how to maintain that healthy balance and to show that it's OK to prioritize your family without sacrificing your career.

Q: How do you relax outside of the C-suite?  

AS: I recently took up golf. I truly enjoy being outdoors, and it's a great way to soak up the sun and get fresh air and exercise. I'm not very good, but I have great golf partners that have helped me along the way. Golf is truly level-setting; no one starts out being good at it, so everyone can relate to the bad shot that goes way off or the missed "easy" putt … and it's the one sport for which people freely give good tips and teach techniques because they truly want to help you get better.

Q: How do you stay inspired on hard days?  

AS: At the end of the day, all that I do supports those who take care of patients. So, I get out of my office and make rounds; talking to patients and team members always leaves me inspired and with fresh ideas to make things better, faster, more efficient. I always put myself in the shoes of those I serve: patients, nurses and other healthcare providers. How can I make it better so that they can take better care of our patients? That keeps me going and inspires me daily.  

Q: What is your daily mantra?

AS: Don't wish for it, work for it. You can spend an awful lot of time thinking about what you really want, pondering if it's worth it, and how you're going to get there. Get moving, take action, make it happen.

Q: What do you consider your greatest career success? 

AS: For me, it's always about mentoring others and helping them to identify their own strengths. It's so rewarding for me when someone I have mentored or coached "gets it" for themselves. It's fun to see when others succeed and knowing you've contributed in some way to helping to get them to that next level. When you can help shape the future of someone's career — and help them realize their own potential — that is success. 


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