6 healthcare CEOs share the hardest part of their day

Becker’s “Living Like a Leader” series provides a platform for some of the brightest executives in the healthcare industry to share how they manage their energy, team and time to be successful.

For each interview, executives are asked a series of questions about their daily routine. Below six hospital CEOs share what is the hardest part of their day:

Paul Viviano, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“The hardest part for anybody in healthcare is circumstances where families experience a loss. While we have been recognized for fantastic clinical performance, there are still days when some of our young patients don’t survive. Spending time with families who have lost a child is without doubt the hardest part of all the work that we do. I know caregivers on the front lines have it much harder than I do in that respect, but I am always humbled when I am able to be engaged in these discussions. This is the hardest part of anybody’s job in healthcare — knowing that some outcomes don’t change no matter what you do.”

Peter Fine, president and CEO of Banner Health (Phoenix).

“The hardest part of my day is when I have to make decisions that I don’t like to make. The decisions that affect people, affect stability or add high degrees of risk. It’s always those decisions that weigh on you, either because you’re taking on a lot of risk or you’re negatively impacting people, primarily employees. We, like other health systems in the U.S., after losing a significant portion of our business  in the course of two or three months, had to create some stability for the company. In some cases, this affected personnel. Those decisions are never done easily. You do what you have to do to help the company, but those decisions are certainly the hardest part of any day.”

David Dill, president and CEO of LifePoint Health (Brentwood, Tenn.).

“In my previous role, I had a list of tasks, and I was able to cross out items on the list as they got done. What I do now in the CEO role is more long-term in nature. So, the hardest part of my day is shaking the nagging feeling that I didn’t get everything done that I need to, mainly because I didn’t mark 10 things off a list like I used to. I think it’s just an adjustment.”

Andrew Agwunobi, MD, CEO and executive vice president for health affairs for UConn Health (Farmington, Conn.)

“The hardest part of my day occurs when we lose, or are facing the possible loss of, good talent. For example, when nurses, physicians or talented executives leave or are considering leaving for positions in other health systems. It is particularly hard when this occurs for preventable reasons such as poor management or not adequately responding to their needs. The loss of talent is one of the most damaging occurrences that can happen to an organization. It goes without saying that I spend a lot of my time trying to anticipate employees’ needs, developing our leaders and working to ensure we retain our staff. It is one of the reasons I am so passionate about driving employee and physician engagement, as well as combating physician burnout.”

Thomas Biga, president of RWJBarnabas Health’s hospital division (West Orange, N.J.)

“It always depends on the issues at hand. I’m a morning person, so I like to do things earlier rather than later. But this is a 24/7 business; you need to accommodate the schedules of a variety of constituents from physicians who are seeing patients all day, to board members who are extremely busy, to employees on the third shift. So, the hours can be long and varied.”

Prathibha Varkey CEO of Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health’s Northeast Medical Group

“The hardest part is driving between the different practices, because driving can be physically exhausting. However, I wouldn’t trade it because it’s also the most rewarding part of my day.”

To read more from the Living Like a Leader series, click here. If you are interested in participating in a future Living Like a Leader piece, email apaavola@beckershealthcare.com. 

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