Lisa Courtney’s journey into hospital medicine didn’t start with a chemistry set and didn’t take her to medical school. It started with a childhood friend and earned her an MBA.
As a child, Courtney, director of operations for a multi-site hospitalist program at Baptist Health System in Birmingham, Ala., knew a boy who was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I often visited him in the hospital,” she says. “Those visits made me want to be in medicine. As I grew up, I knew I had more of a business mindset verses clinical, but my passion for healthcare remained.”
She’s not kidding. In 2000, she earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. Five years later, she earned an MBA in healthcare administration from the University of Phoenix. Her career started in marketing in North Carolina, but after five years in her current role, she has been involved in developing new hospitalist programs at three hospital sites.
Courtney is an active SHM member and is in her second year as a member of SHM’s Practice Administrators Committee. Now she is bringing that nonphysician perspective to Team Hospitalist. She is one of seven new members of The Hospitalist’s volunteer editorial advisory board.
Question: Was there a specific person/mentor who steered you to hospital medicine?
Answer: I was over operations of outpatient clinics and one hospitalist location when the opportunity to help start our system-wide hospitalist program became available. My boss approached me with the opportunity. She had once helped start a hospital medicine program and thought I would enjoy the challenge it would bring.
Helping start our system hospitalist program has been both my biggest professional challenge and biggest professional reward. It was tough. With one established program already in place, it was decided to bring our two largest hospital medicine programs in-house.
Q: What do you like most about working in hospital medicine?
A: My favorite part of hospital medicine is working with my medical directors, physicians, and hospital leadership to improve quality and outcomes for our patients. It’s great to see initiatives start from the group up and then watch the improved outcomes take place.
Q: What do you dislike most?
A: Navigating the staffing challenges is the least enjoyable part of my job.
Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?
A: My father always was kind to everyone and [was] respected because of his character. I was taught a person’s character is more important than any professional achievement.
Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in HM in your career?
A: It seems I’ve seen an uptick of specialists wanting to model their practice after hospitalists. I’ve seen neurologists and nephrologists who only want to do inpatient care. I believe this stems from the [interest in] work-/home life balance that is more important to the newest generation of physicians.
Q: What is your biggest professional challenge?
A: Helping start our system hospitalist program has been both my biggest professional challenge and biggest professional reward. It was tough. With one established program already in place, it was decided to bring our two largest hospital medicine programs in-house. The programs were literally starting over from scratch within one month of each other. We started with six (full-time) FT physicians, two office managers, and me between the two locations. There was lots of locum usage, heavy recruiting, physicians working crazy hours to help out, and sleepless nights.
Q: And since then?
A: We have maintained good staffing/quality physicians at our initial location, fully staffed with 28 full-time physicians, four nurse practitioners, and several other support staff at our two startup locations, and have started a program at the fourth hospital. The hospital medicine group and the hospitals have worked together on clinical documentation improvement [and] geographic interdisciplinary rounding and have gone through an EPIC EHR install. It’s been a very challenging but rewarding road to be on.