'If it were easy…' and other golden nuggets of advice for hospital leaders

Becker's spoke with eight hospital executives to learn about the best piece of advice they've ever received.

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

Bob Adams. President of Hackettstown (N.J.) Medical Center and Newton (N.J.) Medical Center: Keep your nose to the grindstone. Prioritize your time on the most important priorities. Anchor everything you do in service to your patients and the team.

Rachael Drake, MSN, RN. Chief Nursing Officer of Prisma Health Hillcrest (Simpsonville, S.C.): I've received many nuggets of advice over the years. I have two I would like to share. One tried and true piece of advice I think about is something my dad used to always tell me: "If it were easy, everyone would do it." I continue to have this mindset today both in my personal and professional life. Leadership is hard, and not for the faint of heart. Being able to serve others in a leadership capacity is a great honor and privilege that also comes with great responsibility.

Also, we should never forget how far a simple "thank you" goes. Take time to show gratitude to the people you lead for the work and sacrifices they make.

Jerry Dunlavey. Interim President and CEO of Garnet Health (Middletown, N.Y.):

Always listen. Listen to your staff and your family members, to your colleagues and peers, and perhaps most importantly, to your patients and their families. As leaders we always have a lot to say or we're thinking about our response before the person we're talking to has finished their thought. When we stop and actively listen, we have a much better understanding of the message, and the emotion behind the message that is being conveyed. This better positions us to assist, adjust and/or support. And active listening is not something to practice when there are issues and challenges. It's just as important to actively listen to positive messages, too. Listening helps to build relationships, at home and in the workplace. Relationships are a big part of personal and professional success.

David Levine, MD. Chief Medical Officer of Fisher-Titus Health (Norwalk, Ohio): The Golden Rule: Do unto others … treat people with respect and kindness. If you stick with that for most situations, it will bring you in the right direction, to the right place. This is especially true when you are managing people. 

Gregory Nielsen. COO of LCMC Health (New Orleans): One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received is a quote from a former boss: "Don't give me ball scores or weather reports. Tell me what we're going to do about it." In other words, be intentional about where we are going and always know the next step.

Stacey-Ann Okoth, DNP, RN. Senior Vice President and Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Jefferson Health (Philadelphia): The best piece of advice I've received is that no matter your position, you can make a difference. I've seen our nursing assistants come up with meaningful recommendations to improve the workforce or aid in patient care. When they say that they are "just" followed by their title, I quickly correct them because I know how valuable everyone is on the team. Our housekeepers, for example, know more about what is going on in the hospital than many other people because they listen to our patients and our patients are comfortable with them. As leaders, we have to take advantage of these opportunities and make sure we save a seat at the table for every person on the team to have input. 

Tina Santos, MSN. Assistant Vice President at Orlando (Fla.) Health and Chief Nursing Officer at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center: Brené Brown is someone who deeply resonates with me. She talks about being an authentic leader. So, my advice would be to be a good person, remember your values and what's important to you. Lead with an open heart. For me, being authentic means realizing that while patient quality and safety are very important things, we also have to take great care of the people on our team so they can take care of our patients. We need to advocate for them and for what they need, so they can be the best they can be at their jobs.

Maureen Schneider, PhD, RN. President of Chilton Medical Center (Pompton Plains, N.J.): Never stop learning and be open and flexible with change. Test and share ideas. Always ask questions and then actively listen and engage. Stay positive. 

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