Sally Hurt-Deitch, RN, FACHE, is vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer at Tenet Healthcare. She oversees critical areas including quality, safety and patient experience across all Tenet hospitals, working with seven hospitals with more than 7,000 employees across three Texas markets. She serves as the vice-chair of THA HealthShare’s board of trustees and is the board chair-elect of the Texas Hospital Association board of trustees.
As a nurse and hospital executive, you’ve seen many facets of hospital operations. How do you think hospital executives without a clinical background can build trust with clinical staff and engage them in the larger work of the hospital?
I think the key is in understanding the workflow of others, no matter what area you work in. For example, if you work in finance, learn more about hospital operations so that you can be a credible source. Spend time with those who are doing the job on the front lines to build understanding. And it applies both ways, whatever your background is – if you are a nurse, learn more about finance. You can’t go in and automatically think you know about something. You can learn from a junior accountant and take that understanding back to the field. I’ve worked with great CEOs who had no clinical background, but they were open to learning and asking questions. They asked lots of questions to better understand the physiological process of what is happening to patients. And they were able to build trust with clinicians.
You’ve always demonstrated a strong commitment to partnering with community stakeholders and groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, and working with other hospitals in your market to meet community needs. How do you foster that collaboration, and what advice would you give other hospital leaders on building those collaborative relationships?
We focus on the community first. We ask what the community needs, and what resources we can provide to meet those needs. For example, is it more urgent care? We have to realize that the hospital or health system is just one cog in an entire machine; just one facet of the community. If we – as health care providers and leaders – can serve as the bridge to a discussion with the community, that’s how we do it. We act as conveners. We have often convened a group of health care leaders and business leaders to further the discussion of health care in the community. For example, we’ve had discussions on what will happen if Medicaid funding is cut, and how that would impact members of our community. We ask what benefits we would no longer be able to offer the community. It is important to listen to and work with the people in our communities to determine the answers.
How do you and your team focus on the most important opportunities?
We put the patient first, always. From there, it’s pretty simple to break down the systems, process and people who impact our patients. Then, we can truly begin to be servant leaders. To avoid boiling the ocean, we take time to understand our patients’ needs and the issues with health care today so that we can fully approach the issue and not be overwhelmed by the challenges ahead.