Rural CEOs: The Unknown Shortage

Jennifer Thew, RN, December 1, 2017

This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Talk of shortages usually centers around the clinician workforce, but Benjamin Anderson, MBA, MHCDS, CEO at Kearny County Hospital in Lakin, Kansas, says rural healthcare organizations are facing another less talked about shortage: hospital administrators.

"We're investing billions of dollars as a country into the training, recruitment, and retention of really good, full-spectrum family physicians," he says. "We're investing very little comparatively into the training, recruitment, and retention of really compassionate and competent rural hospital CEOs or healthcare delivery leaders."

Rural CEOs: The Unknown Shortage

According to a report released in February 2017 by the American College of Healthcare Executives, hospital CEO turnover was at 18% nationwide in 2016.

In the survey, Hospital CEO Turnover in Kansas by the Kansas Hospital Education and Research Foundation, 57% of 78 current Kansas CEOs reported they had been in their positions for three years or less.

This churn of administrative talent should be of concern to those in the healthcare industry.

"They help determine the culture. The culture determines whether people stay," Anderson says.

With the retirement of baby boomers on the horizon—49% of the current CEOs in the KHERF survey are 60 years old and older—it's time to be strategic about developing a new crop of leaders who are prepared to tackle the challenges facing rural healthcare.

"Most efforts in our country to train hospital leadership or healthcare delivery leadership are designed for urban centers," Anderson says. "And we have a class of baby boomers that are retiring right now, and we do not have an adequate farm team to replace them."

Jennifer Thew, RN

Jennifer Thew, RN is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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