Presence Saint Joseph CEO Dr. Jay Robinson on self-care and building support systems

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with James "Jay" Robinson III, PsyD, president of Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Robinson will speak on a panel at Becker's Hospital Review 7th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable titled "How Small and Midsize Hospitals can Thrive and Deliver Great Quality" at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: What keeps you excited and motivated to come to work each day?

Dr. Jay Robinson: In a word, it's the mission. I work for an organization that has the noble mission of providing world-class healthcare to the most vulnerable members of the community. In my role a facility president I am charged with operationalizing that mission by developing programming that is responsive to the unique needs of the community. I work with some of the smartest, most innovative people on the planet who are all focused on healing. Whether it's chronic disease, acute illness or a behavioral health issue our team is laser focused on delivering a positive outcome for the most vulnerable among us.

I can't think of anything more motivating than being able to help those most in need!

Q: If you could pass along one piece of advice to another hospital executive, what would it be?

JR: I have been in healthcare for more than 25 years and unfortunately see so many executives succumb to rigors and stress of highly demanding jobs. More than 60 percent of leaders in executive roles report "high levels of stress," and nearly 8 in 10 executives of nonprofit organizations say that they can't see themselves in the same job in five years. I have seen my peers experience dramatic health challenges that can frequently be traced back to the stress of the job. Unmanaged stress can result in chronic illnesses, weight gain, substance abuse and/or mental illness.

My one piece of advice is to take care of yourself. You have to make YOU a priority. It's sad to say, but if you unexpectedly fall ill and are unable to continue, they will appoint an interim person within 24 hours, and shortly after start recruiting to backfill the vacancy. No one is irreplaceable. It's critical for executives to develop and religiously stick with a plan for self-care that includes exercise and thoughtful stress management. Your life depends on it.

Bonus advice: Round on patients every day. I require that all managers round on patients. I think it's critical for healthcare leaders to stay in contact with the patients and families we serve. With the challenges and incredibly fast pace of healthcare it is easy to lose sight of what should be north on our compass……the patient.

Q: What initially piqued your interest in healthcare?

JR: I am a clinical psychologist by background, and my first exposure to healthcare was as a provider. As I developed in my career I became acutely aware of inefficiencies, clinical variation, disparities and poor access to healthcare. Simply put, the challenges I witnessed in my practice lead me to start thinking how I could be more effective as a provider. I had to think of solutions, innovations and new processes that helped drive improvements. As opposed to thinking of one patient at a time I began to conceptualize solutions for populations. I found that my work began to shift away from the clinical and more toward administrative solutions to solve population health issues. This shift in thinking was the impetus to thinking about a career healthcare administration. As you might imagine, I had incredibly dedicated mentors who helped to shape my career as I made the leap from provider to administrator.

Q: What is one piece of professional advice you would give to your younger self?

JR: First, I would encourage my younger self to buy Apple stock in 1982.

Seriously, I would have encouraged my younger self to be more deliberate about finding mentors, advocates and sponsors. I think of mentors as people who can be sounding boards and advice givers. They are typically not in the same organization, but have broad enough perspective and experience base to help navigate issues.

Advocates and sponsors play a more tactical role in your growth. An advocate is the person in the room who speaks up for you when decisions are being made about talent and advancement. Sponsors can be senior people within the same organization and typically take responsibility for your growth and career progression.

While I have enjoyed professional success my route has been somewhat circuitous. I am impressed with how early the students and young professionals of today develop a support team around them to help guide professional growth. I probably did not have a formal mentor until well into my 30s.

It's never too early or late to surround yourself with a good support team.

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