Women make up nearly 80% of employees in healthcare. Despite this fact, they are still not well-represented in leadership ranks. According to research by Rock Health, women make up only 27% of hospital boards and 34% of leadership teams.

It is for this reason that women healthcare leaders promoting and lifting up other women is so important. This was the focus of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association’s 18th Annual Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference, held in Framingham, Mass. on September 26th. Here are some highlights from the event.

Compassion is critical in healthcare

The first speaker at the conference was Dr. Stephen Trzeciak, author of Compassionomics. Dr. Trzeciak discussed the importance of compassion when treating patients, and he argued that clinical excellence plus compassion leads to optimal patient outcomes.

Dr. Trzeciak also talked about provider burnout, positing that there is an inverse association between compassion and burnout. Focusing on resilience and developing human connections with patients is the antidote to burnout.

Diversity and inclusion in healthcare

Dr. Alden Landry, assistant dean at Harvard Medical School, spoke at the event about his life experiences and working to ensure that healthcare is a more diverse and inclusive profession.

According to Dr. Landry, words matter, and how we talk about people matters. It’s important to lift each other up instead of putting barriers around people. Dr. Landry also talked about how he believes in having #SquadGoals – where everyone in a team rises together. This certainly resonated with me and the team I work with here at Dimensional Insight!

Disruption, innovation, and uncertainty

Joni Beshansky led a panel with Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham Health, and Lois Cornell, executive vice president of Massachusetts Medical Society, in which they discussed some of the hot-button issues in healthcare today.

Dr. Nabel said some of the important issues she is focusing on are:

  • Ensuring patients have an optimal experience at her institution
  • Understanding on social determinants of health (SDOH) and economic disparities, and how they factor into treatment
  • Empowering the next generation of healthcare leaders

Some of the top-of-mind issues for Cornell are:

  • Easing the administrative burden from EHRs
  • Ensuring access to good care
  • Making sure medical professionals can access the most up-to-date information

Both women talked about the challenges of being women leaders in healthcare, and how they have been able to navigate obstacles over the years.

Doing work you love

Elizabeth Kester, director of labor and delivery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, delivered a moving presentation on her career journey, which took her from working at an ad agency to going to nursing school and landing in her current role.

Kester reminded women that it’s important to work that is meaningful. She also related how her experience as a mom and the challenges she faced led to her involvement in March for Moms, a coalition of people dedicated to improving the well-being of mothers in the U.S.

Facilitating conversations

The Annual Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference ended with a lively presentation by Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk. Fine talked about how to start conversations with people you don’t know (which I found to be very useful advice for an introvert such as myself). She argued that part of being a leader is to assume other people’s discomfort, and to be the person who assumes the burden of a conversation and facilitates conversations and introductions to other people. Fine’s advice to the introverts of the audience: give yourself a task when you go to an event. It might be to talk to three people, or meet one person you’d really like to speak to. Once you’ve accomplished that task, you can be “off” for the rest of the event.

Conclusion

All in all, it was great to be at this event with women healthcare leaders in Massachusetts, and to hear not only about the challenges we all face, but also how to be better in our roles. Thank you to the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association for putting on such an inspiring conference!

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Kathy Sucich

Kathy is director of healthcare marketing at Dimensional Insight. She graduated from Dartmouth College and is currently pursuing her MBA in health sector management at Boston University. Kathy is also communications chair for the Massachusetts chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
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