Why agility is key for Children's National's newest executive

Gina Cronin will begin serving as senior vice president and chief people officer of Washington, D.C.-based Children's National Hospital in July, bringing decades of executive operational experience to her new role.

Ms. Cronin will take on her new role after serving as chief talent development officer for Cleveland Clinic's Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Global Leadership and Learning Institute. She also serves as program director for the administrative fellowship program at the health system. 

Ms. Cronin told Becker's Hospital Review she is excited about the opportunity to serve children and support their families. She outlined her top priorities for the first year, highlighted key challenges facing hospital human resources leaders, and provided advice for her peers.

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

Question: What lessons or insights do you hope to bring from Cleveland Clinic to Children's National?

Gina Cronin: The experience I have had in leading and supporting bringing innovative HR practices to our caregivers at Cleveland Clinic. I think there is so much in the space. There is so much change happening within healthcare. How can we be agile in meeting the needs of our employees in the future in this changing and dynamic healthcare environment? So that's what I hope to bring is really that ability to bring innovation to serve Children's National.

Q: What are your top priorities in your new role?

GC: My priorities in onboarding are to ensure we have a people strategy that is aligned with the vision and strategy of our new CEO and where she's headed. Children's National has a 150-year history in caring for children, so how do we honor that past and move forward to ensure our employees feel valued and empowered to provide the best possible care to kids? Where I will start is listening. Listening to our employees, our managers, our leaders, patients, communities, and learning about what's going well, learning about what they believe are the opportunities. And then honoring that past at Children's National and creating an HR organization that can serve the employees and organization moving forward.

Q: What do you consider the biggest challenge facing the healthcare workforce today?

GC: I think if you talk to any CEO, the No. 1 trend for them are these ongoing workforce challenges. Healthcare's the nation's largest industry, and patient demand for care is growing. So we know there's a shortage of healthcare workers globally. And we have to not only solve for that in the future but be able to provide care every day. Being able to attract and retain our employees is going to be incredibly important to do that. There are shortages. There are nearly 2 million open jobs in healthcare today, with nursing representing that biggest pie. We know there's going to be a shortage of physicians. How do we combat that? These trends are here to stay. We're not going to be able to alter that course. We will have to identify strategies to not only attract but retain our employees while we're building those pipelines in the future.

Q: Do you have a specific mantra or leadership style?

GC: As it relates to our teams in particular within HR, it's about creating that culture and amplifying the culture that we want our employees to be able to deliver the best care. So for me, that is the most important recipe to success. Amplifying a culture so every employee feels seen and valued and that they can learn and grow. 

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

GC: We need to continue to be agile and responsive and know that the change is going to continue to come quicker with all the disruptors we have within healthcare. The work we're doing is so incredibly important and innovative that it's a real honor to serve that. We've got to continue that focus on well-being for our employees. I view that well-being as not just emotional but really when we talk holistically about that employee, how do we support physical, emotional, financial well-being, learning and growth. And that is going to be where our success resides. 

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