'It doesn't have to be us or them': 1 chief nursing officer's take on the future of hospitals

Athena Minor, MSN, RN, chief nursing and clinical officer at Hartford, Ky.-based Ohio County Healthcare, found hope in some of the changes necessitated by COVID-19.

Ms. Minor has seen the way hospitals have moved from competition to collaboration, and she is hoping the trend will continue for nonprofit and for-profit hospitals alike. 

"It does not have to be us or them," she said. "We're all here to do what's best for our patients and provide those needs."

She connected with Becker's to discuss her experience as a leader in a nonprofit critical care hospital.

Question: What study, technology or innovation are you most excited about right now?

Athena Minor: I'm really psyched about AI. We have a lot of really good AI technology out there. It's going to increase efficiency. It's going to decrease the time spent on dissatisfying tasks. It can help with safety, quality and efficiency. But it also can increase satisfaction among our healthcare workers. AI will allow us to do greater things with less staff, and in the world we live in I think that's so important.

Q: What aspect of your work or the field keeps you up at night?

AM: I think it's the same thing that's keeping everybody up right now: our workforce. What are we going to be doing in the future? Are we going to have enough people to take care of the needs that are coming to us since the amount of patients isn't going down? That creates a great deal of challenges.

The other thing that really concerns me is reimbursements. I am a leader of a critical access hospital in rural Kentucky. And the bottom line is we're nonprofit — we don't make a profit. It's so thin as it is that if we still continue to see reimbursement go down, patients might not get the care they need. And then if we give them that healthcare and the payment is denied — and not many facilities can continue to operate on a negative margin.

Q: What aspect of your work or field gives you hope for the future?

AM: The trials we faced recently have really helped a lot of people become more collaborative. I'm hoping that we continue the trend that started with COVID-19 to decrease the competition among healthcare and increase collaboration. What makes me hopeful for the future is that we have an understanding that partnerships, not takeovers, can work. It does not have to be us or them. We're all here to do what's best for our patients and provide those needs.

Q: What's one thing your hospital or system is doing in patient care that you're most proud of?

AM: There's a lot of things that I'm proud of in patient care. I think that holistic care and looking at patients, not just in what their needs are while they're here, but how their environment is causing issues and addressing those. I think it's very exciting. We are a small community critical access hospital where our patients are our family, our friends, the people that we see in the baseball game or at church or at the grocery store. It's very difficult not to provide the best care that you can when you know these people. We have got to provide holistic care and look at the whole person.

Q: What's the best piece of leadership advice you've received?

AM: I've had a lot of great mentors over the years who have given me some really good advice, and I'm learning every day, but recently a co-worker sent me an article, and it said, "Always ask yourself, what is it that you don't know?" So as you're leading, what is it you need assistance with? You know what you know, but what is it that you don't know? What is it that you can bring into that conversation to make things better? What support do you need to make things better because it's not your field of expertise.

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