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7 Questions with DARLENE CUNHA
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7 Questions with DARLENE CUNHA
Name: DARLENE CUNHA
Current title: VP PT CARE SERVICES, CNO
Current organisation: TRINITY HEALTH CARE, MERCY MEDICAL CENTER
Results Oriented Healthcare Executive with a proven track record of success leading hospitals and organizations toward effective business and clinical operations including: acute patient care services, quality services, hospital operations, ambulatory care, home care and physician practices that drive bottom-line results.
Transformational Leader & Strategic Clinical Program Developer with experience working on high profile healthcare assignments including quality and regulatory compliance, business development, restructuring, expansion and strategic planning. The "go-to" person.
A highly successful turnaround expert with a track record of transforming and managing all levels of hospital operations with a focus on clinical excellence, expense control and growth.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The COVID-19 Pandemic has challenged every piece of our healthcare system.
As a CNO – the following areas have proven to be very challenging as we navigate the next phase of the pandemic.
1. The complexity of care,
2. Increased cost pressures,
3. Nursing shortage/turnover, and increased competition for experienced nurses, with a significant focus on "never events".
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was fortunate enough to have wonderful mentors and leaders throughout my career who supported and recommended my continued growth in leadership. I looked for growth within my organization, and joined professional organizations to ensure I networked with other executives to learn both internal and external challenges within healthcare and more specifically in nursing.
I was selected as an internal candidate for a Chief Clinical Officer position, interviewed and was selected to lead clinical services for the organization. I am a lifelong learner and made it a priority to continue my education to grow both personally and professionally. I am a leader who always leads by example with dignity and respect, and principles aligned with ethical practice. Over the years my reputation has been referred to as one who leads with her heart and head, and always aligns care with best practice. It is vitally important to support and grow new leaders, and I was fortunate to have executives who believed in me and helped to propel my career.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Set goals and intentions for the day.
30-minute workout – while listening to the news.
Use commute time to call his family and friends.
Check in with the DON on any house wide concerns: staffing, pt./family concerns, any serious pt. events etc.?
• Are strategies aligned with the organizational vision and mission
• Goals: am I on target
• Growth Strategies: check if initiatives on track
• Review Tactics: are they effective – do they need to be revised
• Tier 1 Huddle with Leadership – meet with team and review strategies
• Tier 3 Huddle: Review daily stats: where are we off target and why?
• Tier 4 Huddle: meet with ELT to review S+P stats
• Gemba: visit clinical units – check in with front line staff – what is / is not working – engage the team and keep them inspired.
• Tier 5 Huddle: Zoom with regional team (once / week) to review growth strategies
• Email/calls/meetings throughout the day
• 1:1 meetings with leadership team throughout the week
• Check in weekly with team using stand out
• Finish day with call/email and review of house – always connect the why, communicate with transparency,
Lead by example
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Focusing on the things that really matter and where you can make a difference. There may be a hundred different distractions and demands on your time and a hundred ways you could respond, but it’s the dozen carefully chosen actions that deliver the results.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are 2 books that were given to me when I accepted my 1st leadership position and I have referred to them throughout my career - and - have given them to my new leaders as well. 1) good to Great - by Jim Collins and 2) 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
The book by Jim Collins expounds on the premise that “good is the enemy of great.” We don’t have great hospitals principally because we have good hospitals. If you think about it - few people accomplish great lives, because it is just easy to settle for a good life. I took that premise and shared it with my leadership team. Our mission was not to be good but to be great. I had taken the role of a chief clinical officer at a long-term acute care hospital who struggled with a poor reputation. I gave each of the leaders a copy of the book and asked them to select one leadership trait they were going to embody and share with their direct reports. We made it our “mission” to focus on great pt. outcomes, great pt. experience, celebrating successes and great catches. I was able to develop this team who was defeated – into a team that was successful, believed in themselves and aspired to lead with positivity and by example. The occupancy rate went from 84% to 95% at the end of the 1st yr. and was sustained throughout my tenure.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
A pt. who presented end of life and had been estranged from his sister for 25 yrs. He did not remember her married name but remembered the state she lived in. We were on a mission to find his sister. After 4 days of intense investigative work - we located his niece, who led us to this pt.'s sister. She flew to MA and was her to reconcile with her brother and he passed with 12H of her arrival. This is why we do what we do. No matter how large or small the healthcare system - we can never forget we are all about the art of human caring.