Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Susan W. Carey, MHI, RHIT, FAHIMA, PMP

Norton Healthcare (NHC)

Current job title
System Director, HIM

Job duties and/or educational background
Responsible for the strategy of HIM/HIT services for all divisions (Hospitals, Norton Cancer Institute, Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, Primary Care Offices, Specialty Offices) of NHC. 

How did you progress to your current leadership position?
I progressed in my career through taking on any new projects or assignments that were available; and, my participation was approved by my leader. We all lament about how to gain experience and move up the ladder and many believe we have to change jobs to do this; well, we don’t. Taking on new work in your existing position grows your skill set and develops your leadership capabilities. Thus, when a “higher up the ladder” position opened up I met the qualifications of the position.

Part of what I did when taking on new projects and assignments was to identify what new skills I would learn, how I would expand my knowledge base, what new behaviors would I need to learn and what weaknesses I brought to the table. This allowed me to find the right challenges to help me grow! For example, early in my career in HIM at a hospital there was an opportunity to serve as the liaison between HIM and IT as part of implementing a computerized medical record system at our organization. There was no more money offered, there was not a different job title. I volunteered for this assignment although my exposure to IT at that point was minimal. However, I dove in and learned everything I could; I soon found myself with an opportunity to move into a system installer role at the corporate level. This is when I began my HIT career. I moved into project management and began to manage EHR projects. During the time I was focusing on HIT project management, the electronic health record was taking the healthcare ecosystem by storm and the traditional role of HIM Director was becoming everything but traditional.

I moved into a senior project management consultant and had the opportunity to consult as a project/change manager at NHC on the EHR implementation project. While serving in this role, the system director of HIM opened and I was able to move into the position due to my HIT background. The position at that point in time (2003) was somewhat non-traditional with a focus on aspects of HIM and HIT excluding CDI and coding.  

What are ways that you motivate and inspire your team?  Please identify what type of team you are referring to (i.e. your direct reports at work, a committee, a different organization you are part of).
The first step in motivating any team member is making accurate judgments on whether he/she is motivated by extrinsic factors or intrinsic factors. As we all know, people are different and they are motivated by different things. Some team members are motivated by the potential of a bonus, which is an extrinsic factor – it is external. Some team members are motivated by a specific challenge and the opportunity to achieve something that they have not achieved before, which is an intrinsic factor – it is internal. If you attempt to motivate someone who is motivated by extrinsic factors with intrinsic approaches you will fail. Leaders must take steps to understand what motivates each team member. Your understanding of what motivates your team members influences how you will and should manage that team member. 

How do you select a mentor?  What traits do you look for?
It is important to understand the role of a mentor before you make efforts to select one. A mentor is someone who can serve as a sounding board; someone who can provide career advice; and, most importantly a mentor can provide you with honest, objective and constructive feedback. There are several considerations as to how to select a mentor. Who you select as a mentor is influenced by the stage of your career, your current position and/or your focus.

You may be at the point in your career where a mentor who is very versed in your industry and is a recognized leader in the industry is your selection. This type of mentor can provide expert knowledge and networking within the industry. You may be at a point in your career where you need someone who is a visionary within the ecosystem of your industry. This type of mentor can help you navigate outside your comfort zone.

You may select someone is not even involved in your industry. You may want someone to help you see things in non-biased approach. Understand the purpose of a mentor and what you feel is most important to you and then identify potential mentors. 

What professional organizations are you associated with?  Has your participation in these organizations enhanced your leadership capabilities?  If so, how?
I belong to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), Kentucky Health Information Management Association (KHIMA), Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Bluegrass Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (BGHIMSS) and Project Management Institute (PMI).

Part of being a leader is being knowledgeable and versed in all aspects of your industry and building a network of resources. Participating in these organizations keeps me current with HIM/HIT and project management. My participation also helps me build my collaboration and negotiation skills. When you participate in or are a member of a volunteer or member organization you must rely on referent power to influence decisions, come to agreement, etc.; referent power is the ability to influence others based on interpersonal relationships and the ability to build loyalty. 

What advice would you give someone aspiring to be a leader?
I would quote John Maxwell first and foremost “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Next, I would caution someone aspiring to be a leader to not assume “leader” is synonymous with “boss.” I would encourage someone aspiring to be a leader to understand that well developed leadership skills is what equips you to lead. So, focus on acquiring and honing your leadership skills, your role as a leader will soon follow. Finally, I would advise an aspiring leader to be a servant leader and not a self-serving leader. 

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