Optimism and morning huddles: Q&A with Yoakum Community Hospital CEO Karen Barber

For a hospital CEO, keeping a positive attitude isn't always easy. But for Yoakum Community Hospital CEO Karen Barber, maintaining an optimistic outlook is the best way to approach challenges in personal and professional life.

Ms. Barber joined 25-bed Yoakum (Texas) Community Hospital as a nurse in 1992 and became CEO in 2006. The city of Yoakum lies in southern Texas, centrally between Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio.

In 2014, Ms. Barber was named to Becker's list of "50 Rural Hospital CEOs to Know," and Yoakum Community Hospital, which opened in 1922, was named as one of Becker's "100 Great Community Hospitals" in 2013.

Here Ms. Barber discusses positivity, her team's morning huddle routine and her interest in ACOs.

Note: The following responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: How do you build a great team?

Karen Barber: I've been fortunate that I've had the people around me that I do. I've been really blessed to have a group of people who have a legitimate uniqueness, and if you can allow them to bring that out, you can build a great team.

It's not anything that I do; it's just allowing the other people to use their uniqueness to the fullest.

Q: What was the last memorable thing you read?

KB: I'm reading Dana Perino's And the Good News Is...: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side. She was the White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. I really like her. She's such a positive and graceful person.

In her book, she talks about why she chose the title and why she's an optimistic person. There's nothing that's ever so bad that we don't have the opportunity or capability to fix the problem. I identified with that, and in a way it describes me. Things come your way, but you always have an opportunity to make them better.

Q: What is one of your daily routines?

KB: We started doing morning huddles at the office. They're like pow-wows. It's fifteen minutes every morning, and someone from every department is present. At first they were a little awkward, because people were wondering, "What do you want from us?" But now there's communication between departments, and I'm learning things I might have never been aware of.

I have a friend who is a CEO of a large facility who said he'd done morning huddles. I have another friend who works at a different facility who has also done it. I thought, "These people are doing it right."

It's one of the best things we've done around here. The neat thing is that it costs nothing. We always try to end on something positive, even if it's just a high five.

Q: What news story or event in healthcare have you been most interested in this past month?

KB: I recently read a Becker's article called "50 things to know about ACOs." I just forwarded it to our CMO. Yoakum Community Hospital is in very rural Texas, and we don't have any ACOs. But there's some talk of forming one, and it was interesting to read about them.


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