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Lessons I learned from 35 years in healthcare

June 27, 2018

When I graduated from Duke with a Master’s Degree in Public Policy, one of my professors advised me that the best way to ensure a challenging and rewarding career was to work in a policy area that was always changing. It appears I chose well, as it’s hard to think of another industry that changes more than healthcare!

Some changes stick around (like DRGs as a payment system for hospitals) and others seem to evaporate (the NC Medical Database Commission, which required hospitals to send data about every discharge to the state) and still others get recycled every decade or two (“Vertically Integrated Health Systems” become “Accountable Care Organizations”). Believe it or not, 25 years ago I managed a project at Duke with IBM consultants who were trying to convince providers and payers to set up a ‘community’ data system where clinical data would be stored and exchanged – and now we have a state mandate to report clinical data to the NC HIE! Sometimes change happens, but so very slowly …

During my 35 years, I’ve worked in state government, software development, academic health systems, independent practices and consulting. I’ve done facility planning, strategic planning, finance, practice management, EHR implementation and regulatory compliance. But at the end of the day, the most rewarding experiences for me have always been about impacting people. There’s the direct impacts we have on patients, employees, colleagues and those that we mentor; and there’s the indirect impact we have when we perform financial analyses to keep a practice profitable or help to shape government policies.

Lots of folks have been asking me what I will be doing after I retire. I grew up in an era where most women were stay-at-home moms. But our generation was taught that we should fight to have it all – and then we were exhausted and depressed because getting “it all” was impossible. Another great piece of advice I got was that life has three components – work, family and community. You can have all three in your life, but only two at the same time. Before having kids and aging family members, I was building a career and active in community activities. Then life became all about work and family. For the past several years I’ve been focused on work and community again. And now, I’m fortunate to be able to reorient myself to community and family. I plan to continue and expand volunteer activities to support those in our community who are struggling and spend time traveling to visit national parks with my husband (while we are still young enough to hike 10 miles a day) and my kids who are working on creating families of their own.

To sum it all up, what I’ve learned is this: Embrace Change and help others to accept and adapt to it. Be Patient – when an initiative fails you’ll likely get another opportunity to come at it from a different perspective. It’s all about People and what you can do to make their lives easier, more rewarding or just plain better. And finally, find your own Personal Balance and then work to maintain it.

All my best to all of you. I leave the future of healthcare in your very capable hands!

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