'It's like conducting an orchestra': Catholic Health's new CEO on leadership post-pandemic

Joyce Markiewicz, RN, became the fifth president and CEO in Buffalo, N.Y.-based Catholic Health's 25-year history Sept. 1, and she brings a wealth of experience to her new role.

Ms. Markiewicz began her career as a registered nurse before serving in leadership positions in home healthcare organizations. She joined Catholic Health in 2005 and has held various roles at the organization, including president and CEO of home care and president and CEO of home- and community-based care. Before assuming her current role, she served as executive vice president and chief business development officer.

Ms. Markiewicz told Becker's she's excited about her new role. She shared her top priorities for her first year on the job, discussed her nursing background and offered some advice for her peers.

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

Question: What has you most excited about your new role as CEO of Catholic Health?

Joyce Markiewicz: I've been with the organization for 19 years, and it feels to me that it's a natural progression from where I started to where I am today. And there was a period of my career with Catholic Health that I was in business development, and being in business development was very different than when I had oversight of all of home and community-based care because, with home and community-based care, I was more part of a family. Being in the business development role, you're a little bit more separated from the workforce, from the relationships, all of that, because you're focusing more on building a hospital. I'm really excited to be engaged again with the doctors and the nurses and all the associates at that more personal level.

Q: What are a few of your top priorities for your first year in your new role?

JM: We're following our strategic plan very closely right now because, like every other health system, we've experienced financial losses. We've dealt with post-pandemic and pandemic. And it's extremely important as an organization that we continue to take care of the work that is foundational to stabilize the organization. That that piece is critical to us. But I also know that we have to do that simultaneously with looking for new opportunities and making sure that we're continuing to grow, especially outside the hospital in that ambulatory space. So we'll continue to remain focused in those areas as well. It's like conducting an orchestra. We've got to make sure that people are focused on their roles. Some of those roles are making sure that we're stabilizing our foundation, and we have other individuals that are focused on growth.

Q: How do you see your nursing background influencing your leadership style?

JM: I started my career as a bedside nurse, and I recognize that was a long time ago. But there's some fundamental principles that have not changed since I was at the bedside. I know what good care looks like. I have very high expectations of our clinical staff as it relates to the care that we deliver and how we deliver it. And I'm going to have those standards, and I expect people will work toward achieving those goals so that we're having a high-quality organization with good patient experience. Since I left the bedside, there has not been a day in my career that I have not used my nursing knowledge and skills. I will continue to do that moving forward as a CEO as well. Always taking into consideration where I started and why we're here, which is to take care of our patients.

Q: If you could pass along a piece of advice to other hospital executives, what would it be?

JM: Workforce challenges, financial challenges — all of those things that we're facing every single day — they create tremendous pressure. We're not solving these things overnight. And we all in healthcare have a long road to haul. That expression, "It's a marathon, not a sprint," it's very true. One of the most important things that people can do in leadership roles is to make sure that you realize you can only take care of what's in the span of your role, and that you also have to make sure that you're taking care of yourself in the process. The work is there the next day and the following day, and you have to make sure that during that time you're taking care of yourself, you're enriching yourself with your family and your loved ones. Those are the things that keep me going. Making sure that I'm separating out those times when I'm with those people that I love from the time that I'm devoting to the work that I do every day. And I've done that my whole career. It's really important because it gives you the energy to get up in the morning and say, "I'm ready to face another day," in a positive way, not in a burdensome way. For most of my career, I would say that I very rarely ever had a time where I said, "Oh, I have to go to work tomorrow." It's always been, "I'm ready to go." That's something that I've always tried to pass on to people I work with, especially people who report to me. I want you to get up every day enjoying what you do. But if you burn yourself out because you're trying to do it all by yourself or you're trying to do it all in a short period of time, then no one wins in those situations.

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