The most underrated roles in healthcare

Clinicians rely on the support of hundreds of other positions to make patient care possible, but many of those positions go unrecognized for their efforts.

Here six leaders share their thoughts on the most underrated roles in healthcare and their impact on the field:

Marjorie Bessel, MD. Chief Clinical Officer at Banner Health (Phoenix): It's the support network of the patient that helps create incredible human moments. These are the people at the patient's side every day, and they serve the most underrated role in healthcare. When we as a clinician can work with the larger support network, we can invite them into deep conversation and understanding [and] we maximize outcomes for the patients' goals.

Michael Pizzano. New Jersey Market CEO at Kindred Hospitals (Louisville, Ky.): I strongly feel that one of the most underrated roles in healthcare is the role of the patient advocate. Perhaps I handle this role differently than others, but I ask these employees to send me and only me a report on all the patients they spoke to throughout the day. This gives me the pulse of just how we are doing with being servant leaders. This report allows me to focus on areas where we may be lacking and give kudos on where we are succeeding. These employees are the ones being compassionate, lending an ear and having a simple conversation when the patient and their family may need it. Additionally, they help with ensuring the family is receiving the communication they need, feel as comfortable as possible with their stay, and confident that their voice matters at our hospitals. Thank you to our patient advocates for all you do!  

Lorie Rhine, MSN, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at UNC Rex Health (Raleigh, N.C.): Nursing assistants or nurse aides are often underrated. They're hard-working people in a physical job, subjected to workplace violence because they're right there with nurses. There are so many jobs that pay that same wage. Nurse assistants are valuable. They truly support the nurse and the patient, and I don't know that they get as much recognition as they deserve.

Regina Sawyer, DNP, RN. Senior VP of Ambulatory Operations and Chief Nursing Officer at MetroHealth (Cleveland): The medical assistant profession is often underrated or "unseen," but they make major contributions to the healthcare system. These allied health professionals go by many names: medical practice assistants, medical team assistants, specialty practice assistants and surgical team assistants. No matter what their title, they are listeners, comforters and the energy behind much of the medicine practiced at hospitals across the country. They help our providers prepare for office visits, obtain vital signs, gather essential health information and assist nurses with general patient care. They also make sure patients are up to date on their medications, schedule follow-up appointments and ensure that individuals leave our care with everything they need to stay their healthiest. In short, they serve as "the glue" that helps make patient-centered care possible.

Helen Staples-Evans, DNP, RN. Senior Vice President Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at Loma Linda (Calif.) University Health: The important work of healthcare includes many teams whose roles may go unnoticed but are never unappreciated. Facilities management team members work behind the scenes, ensuring that every broken element is restored, every flaw is rectified and every barrier is removed. Thanks to their tireless efforts, we all can be certain that doors will open and plumbing will flow without interruption. From dialysis connections that continue life to air conditioning that provides comfort, facilities management offers swift and steady hands to create an operational foundation that is critical to the healing environment.

It's unfortunate that many do not see how the heroes in facilities management contribute to our success. Their absence would leave an indelible void. They make it possible for the clinical team to do their compassionate work, transforming lives and bringing about healing.

Meera Udayakumar, MD. Chief Medical Officer at UNC Rex Health (Raleigh, N.C.): There are many potential roles to choose from, but I would say social workers. They are the glue that holds our system together, and so much of what patients need right now is social support rather than acute medical needs.

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