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Hospital Medicine’s Challenges, Rewards Lure Healthcare Administrator


 

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.

Q: What SHM event (i.e., Leadership Academy, annual meeting) made the most lasting impression on you?

A: The “Leadership Essentials” course [part of SHM’s three-course Leadership Academy] was very important to me. I look forward to continuing the Leadership Academy courses.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I love the organization I currently work for. I hope to continue on my current career path and grow as a leader within the organization.

Q: When you aren’t working, what is important to you?

Answer: My family life is very important. I’m married, and we have one son who is nine. My off time revolves around traveling and sports my son participates in.

Q: Apple or Android?

A: As much as I hate to admit it, I’m an Apple fan. It took me a long time to make the switch, but I’m like the masses and addicted.

Q: What show is sitting in your Netflix queue that you can’t wait to binge watch?

A: I’m a “Walking Dead” fan and am working my way through all of the seasons now. I’ve made it up to last season.

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