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Executive Recruitment for Interim Management: Easing the Transition

by Laurie Breedlove, CHC SVP of Human Resources


Managing organizational change presents extraordinary challenges, particularly when the change involves replacing a chief executive officer following their departure. For smaller community hospitals in transition, interim leaders can help fill this gap. An interim executive may be someone close to retirement, a leader seeking a different work-life balance, or an experienced, skilled executive unable to relocate for a permanent role where travel is an option.


An interim can devote time and attention to their role alleviating work overloads on others, bring objectivity to a new assignment through an unbiased perspective, and bring experience, enthusiasm and optimism to the job. A leader with a desire to effect change and improve financial and clinical outcomes on a temporary, full-time basis can be a valuable change agent, positioning the hospital for success moving ahead and laying the groundwork for recruitment of a permanent CEO.


Gary Kendrick, for example, has been a hospital administrator since 1980. Through CHC, he has served as interim CEO for several CHC hospitals, filling a significant void until a permanent CEO has been identified.


"Each new hospital is an adventure,” Kendrick says. “The best part about being an interim executive is the opportunity to apply decades of experience as a hospital leader to help steer a hospital's future. There's often lots of work to do, so it's a job that requires rolling up your sleeves to do whatever may be needed. It's a privilege to engage the local hospital Board and work with CHC in several areas. Whether we’re working on improving operations or finances, recruiting a new physician or evaluating how care is delivered, these efforts often go the distance to improve the hospital. When I leave the community, I know they're in a better place."


Understanding how to select and prepare for an incoming interim – a CEO or another executive – will help ensure a smooth leadership transition. Here are some “must-have” tips to follow.


Finding the interim you need.

CHC has a long tradition of helping hospitals locate and place experienced interim executives to fill key leadership positions until permanent candidates are found. This support is invaluable to hospital Board members, who often have business careers in the community that are not healthcare related. CHC specializes in finding an interim executive with just the right combination of talent and skills to address an organization’s customized need. The result? The hospital benefits from a renewed sense of commitment with a new leader, along with the varied experience they bring to the table.


Support for an incoming interim.

Candidates should clearly understand the expectations of the role. The hospital Board should be engaged in clarifying the role of the CEO for an incoming interim; for other executives such as a CFO or CNO the hospital CEO should take the lead in communication. Hospital leaders and managers must perceive the interim as a part of their team ¬– not a “temporary” person.


Communicate regularly with key stakeholders.

Steady, ongoing communication between an interim executive and hospital managers is critical, including regular meetings with individual managers and monthly department manager meetings. When an interim executive is placed by CHC Consulting at a client hospital, CHC meets regularly with the interim to support and facilitate hospital operations and initiatives on an ongoing basis.


Although change can be challenging, following these ideas can help ease the transition as a new leader arrives. In the long run, the hospital and the community both benefit.


Learn more about CHC Consulting Management Services including the placement of interim CEOs and other executives, along with operational assessment services to identify opportunities for operational, clinical and financial improvement.

Tags: Executive Placement, Hospital Management, Hospital Staffing, Interim Executive, Staffing
Staffing and Productivity: Tips for Success

By Jill Bayless, CHC SVP Clinical Services


Improving a hospital’s financial performance seems relatively simple – it’s driven by decreasing costs and increasing revenue. In reality it’s quite complicated to optimize these factors while keeping quality care top of mind. One of the biggest challenges for hospitals is managing staff productivity, which means maintaining the right number and mix of clinical staff based on patient diagnoses and volume. Optimizing productivity is critically important because the cost of labor is the greatest expense for a hospital.

In our experience, almost every hospital has some room to improve staffing productivity. Here are some top-line recommendations to help a hospital department run more like a successful business.

  1. First of all, take a look at the numbers. Compare staffing levels to patient census information for the hospital as a whole and for each specific department. Reviewing staffing data over time will help identify trends and opportunities for improvement.
  2. Next, investigate the reasons for any discrepancies. Bring key players to the table – department managers, administrators and others - to discuss possible alternatives. Would shifting and flexing based on time of year or physician activity be advisable? Invite questions from everyone engaged in the process.
  3. Set an acceptable productivity target standard. Use the data review, input from personnel and national benchmarks to establish a standard staffing ratio for the hospital overall and for each department.
  4. Establish ongoing tracking system. A plan to maintain this productivity standard is critical for success. Successful hospitals make department managers responsible for meeting staffing benchmarks and for implementing flexible staffing based on patient census figures.
  5. Review the standard. On an ongoing basis, set up a regular time for managers and leaders to review departmental staffing guidelines and make necessary changes.

Some additional tips on staffing and productivity:

  1. Look at total hours paid vs. hours worked, which excludes PTO and holiday time. Hours worked is the best benchmark to use for the purpose of improving staff productivity. Each department will have a unique work standard; for example, the number of procedures in the OR, or patient census on an inpatient unit.
  2. Consider work process redesign. The best department managers and CNOs manage staffing levels from shift to shift and cross-train personnel across departments, especially in smaller facilities.
  3. Rethink span of control. It may be possible for one director to manage several departments.
  4. Analyze compensation practices across the organization for standardization and consistency.
  5. Always monitor quality of care – HCAHPS, patient perception, and employee and physician satisfaction. Examine readmissions and other quality of care metrics regularly to ensure quality of care.
  6. From an operational perspective, consider the potential impact of external factors. For example, if one surgeon is leaving the hospital staff, how might that affect OR staffing requirements until a new surgeon comes on board?
  7. Help to educate hospital board members on the potential impact that managing productivity will have on the hospital’s financial performance. In many cases, where there is marginal financial performance, a focus on productivity will allow the facility to maintain viability.

CHC offers a comprehensive assessment to help clients take an in-depth look at productivity and staffing concerns. Learn more about CHC Operational Assessment Services.

Tags: Hospital Performance Improvement, Hospital Staffing, Operational Assessment , Operational Improvement, Productivity Assessment

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