How I Unwind: 5 Senior Healthcare Leaders Respond

Healthcare is a stressful industry to work in, and especially so for the leaders guiding healthcare organizations across the country through an era of tremendous change. How do these leaders unwind? I asked several of them, as well as an industry veteran, to share how they spend what free time they have. Their responses herewithin:

Nancy Howell Agee, President and CEO, Carilion Clinic (Roanoke, Va.): Walking travel trips in places like Morocco, Cuba, Croatia (i.e. somewhere off the beaten path, at least my beaten path.) Walking the dog, and reading — mostly novels, biographies and travel books.

Raymond Iannaccone, MD, President and CEO, Emergency Medical Associates (Parsippany, N.J.): Being a 24/7 industry, healthcare inherently is a stressful field. I began my career as an ED doctor, often working nights and thriving on the adrenaline of challenging clinical work. Now as the president and CEO of a hospital-based physician group and practice management company, I find there's less opportunity to be active, so I work in exercise whenever possible — and encourage our employees to do the same. I start most days by walking or riding a stationary bike, often catching up on my "to read" pile in the process. While at work, when someone wants to meet with me, we'll walk the parking lot if it's a nice day, or jump on a pair of treadmill desks. Our executive team often brainstorms in a more casual meeting space we refer to as the "living room," which helps invite open conversation and collaboration. Outside of work, I try to balance work and family life by getting involved with community organizations that affect my children, such as the local board of education and Boy Scout troop.

Lyn Jenks, CEO, Charlevoix (Mich.) Area Hospital: Unwinding is nearly impossible for a small town CEO. The job is always with you as a trip to the grocery store reminds us. A sign in my office reminds me, though, that "I knit so I don’t kill people." A hobby is the best relaxation, and mine are knitting and painting. Honestly, though, a trip through my hospital, talking with staff and meeting patients is often the best "unwinding" for me as it reminds me why we're in this crazy business in the first place.

Chuck Lauer, Former Publisher of Modern Healthcare and an Author, Public Speaker and Career Coach: Physical exercise has always been my way to alleviate my stress. First thing every morning I head to my local fitness center for an hour-long workout which includes a stationary bicycle ride for about 30 minutes and then some weight training. I also enjoy reading, plus listening to great jazz. Nothing like hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing "Take the A Train" and Woody Herman's band bang out "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," plus so many other great jazz bands (including new-age stuff) play so many great compositions. When I played collegiate hockey [at Middlebury College in Vermont] before every game I would lay down in front of a record player and listen to Frank Sinatra or Tex Beneke and Joe Williams and others sing great songs. It was almost an oasis-like experience for me before I would step on the ice and play a rough and tumble game of hockey. I still listen to great jazz to relax, but the foremost thing that helps keep me grounded is a solid physical work-out. One other thing, even though I am not a great golfer, when I play golf, I experience a release which is hard to describe. Maybe it's because I am with friends who I treasure. I do not know what it is, but a good game of golf does make me feel better.

Toni Sicola, Employee Wellness Program Manager, Alameda Health System (Oakland, Calif.): My stress management routine involves being in community with nature. My favorite activities to decompress after work and on the weekends are rock climbing, gardening and hiking in our local regional parks. Sometimes just sitting in my backyard with my dog and looking at the plants back there is enough to get me back in the game. I also love cooking and gluten-free baking.

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