Interim Executives: Easing A Community Hospital’s Transition

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By Laurie Breedlove

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.

An interim executive often brings to the role decades of experience, especially helpful when working to improve areas of operational, financial and clinical performance.

Kaye Marantette, Chief Nursing Officer for Geary Community Hospital, Junction City, Kansas, was Interim CNO for a few months before recently accepting the permanent position. During the prior four years, she served as Interim CNO or CNO at other CHC client hospitals. She shared, “There’s often lots of work to do, and I’m honored to call upon my experience to help.” Her tenured experience, advanced degrees (RN, BSN, MSN), and positive attitude bring value to each role.

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

The  job of locating and placing experienced interim executives in key leadership positions is best handled by those who specialize in finding candidates with the right combination of talent and skills to address an organization’s need.  Outsourcing this function is invaluable to hospital Board members, who often have business careers in the community that are not healthcare related. Taking this approach enables hospitals to benefit 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 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.  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.

Laurie Breedlove is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Plano, Texas-based Community Hospital Corporation.

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