The Impact of Clinical Experience on the C-Suite

Updated on January 12, 2024
Group of healthcare workers attending a meeting in the hospital.

In the intricate world of healthcare leadership, where decisions can impact both the business and the lives of patients, having a background in clinical care can prove to be an invaluable asset in the C-suite.

A Clinician’s Journey Into the C-Suite

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in people and seeing them do well. And though I didn’t have the words for it then, I was drawn to healthcare even as a young child. I have long felt like my true purpose was to care for people and to help them improve their overall health and well-being.

Over 25 years ago, when I first entered the healthcare field as a dietary aide, I couldn’t tell you that I would eventually move into the roles of COO and Interim CEO. But what I could have told you is that my mission in this world was to do good and to make a positive impact on as many people as possible. 

My clinical experience spans numerous roles, including those of certified nursing assistant (CNA), clinical therapist, program manager, treatment director of clinical services, and more. Throughout my time serving in various clinical capacities over the course of nearly two decades, I’ve had the great fortune to work alongside and learn from nurses, physician’s assistants, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, and the patients themselves.

What I have found to be consistently true across each of my clinical roles is that I had the opportunity—and profound responsibility—to be a voice for others, especially those who could not advocate for themselves. And this is a lesson I bring to the C-suite. In my roles as COO and Interim CEO, I still carry with me the duty to use my voice to champion the needs of those I serve, whether they are patients, employees, or the community at large. 

The Impact of Clinical Experience on Decision-Making

Many of the principles and practices from a “boots on the ground” clinical role can be applied at the executive level. As a C-level executive with a clinical background, when I converse with medical providers, nurses, dietary aides, or housekeepers, I understand where they’re coming from because I have first-hand knowledge of their experiences. I know that their voices are an essential part of the conversation and that they are crucial to making informed, thoughtful decisions that help us grow better as an organization.

The ability to really speak the staff’s language helps me and my team avoid misunderstanding or making decisions that are detrimental to the working experience of the people who serve our patients. My clinical background has enabled me to relate to multiple healthcare professionals and has been instrumental in fostering a collaborative and empathetic leadership approach.

A Perfect Balance: Soft and Structured Leadership Approaches

In an organization that cares for patients, C-level executives need to approach their role with both a business focus and a clinical understanding.

While it’s obviously important to lead with business needs, such as revenue growth, in mind, there’s a lot more to consider. Having a clinical background lends itself to a softer style of management that leads with the heart and considers the impact of business decisions on our staff and patients. The clinician’s skills—empathy, compassion, and a patient-focused worldview—overlap nicely with the more business-minded approaches to management and operational styles.

When you’re a clinician working one-on-one with patients, you’re always thinking about the dynamics of the people in front of you and how they impact the agenda. That translates very easily into the C-suite. Having that clinical background ensures that you’re a voice for the people while also monitoring the responsibilities of the business and its goals.

As I’ve worked in C-level roles at AdCare Hospital, my primary focus has been driving sustainable change and growth and ensuring that at any given time, all systems, departments, and programs are functioning at the best quality possible while also considering the people in those functions. In fact, a large part of what I do is people-driven and patient-focused. The decisions we make at the executive level impact individuals who are my colleagues and team members, so it’s important to factor that in because it trickles down to the people who are most important to all of us: the patients.

Fostering a Patient-Centric Approach by Staying in Touch

Patient feedback is one of the most valuable tools we have at the leadership level to ensure we’re meeting their needs. Every month, I make a point to dig into patient data and reviews. When I see that a patient has had an unfavorable experience in any of our departments, I know it’s time to take action. I work side-by-side with the directors or the managers of those departments to create the conditions needed for a better patient experience.

Staying connected to the most crucial aspect of our business—our patients—provides a continual understanding of their needs. It’s critical to hear directly from the patients about their time in our program, from the quality of their care to how the facility is run. Each day, I make it a point to meet with patients. This helps me ensure that our patients get value from their sessions with our clinicians and that our operations are sound.

Doing Better by Doing Good

My experiences at the service level and the patient-first ethos I developed as a clinician underscore my commitment to the well-being of those I serve (both employees and patients), which has defined my approach to leadership in the executive suite.

By fostering a culture of continuous improvement, collaboration, and unwavering dedication to patient satisfaction, I strive to ensure that every decision I and my team makes at the executive level reflects our commitment to delivering the highest quality care and improving the healthcare system for everyone.

Andrea Dayotas
Andrea Dayotas

Andrea Dayotas, MA, CAGS, LMHC, LSWA, LADCI, is Interim CEO and COO at AdCare Hospital, an American Addiction Centers facility.