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Deborah Proctor
President and CEO
St. Joseph Health System
Orange, Calif.


Deborah Proctor, president and chief executive officer of 14-hospital St. Joseph Health System in Orange, Calif., spent National Nurses Day in May making rounds. But not the executive rounds normally associated with the role of the chief. The former nurse, who got her start at St. Joseph Hospital in 1976, donned scrubs and worked alongside staff members at the hospital to get more familiar with the facility’s emergency, intensive-care and oncology departments. Although the inactive status of her nursing license prevented her from participating in hands-on care, Proctor says she gained a deeper appreciation for the role the system’s nurses play on a daily basis.

Proctor: All of the employees were very welcoming, although they were a little nervous at first because they weren’t sure what I was looking for.

Some of the things I experienced helped me to truly understand what the nurses’ work is like. I spent time with a nurse in the ED who was trying to get access to care for an 18-year-old who recently had a kidney transplant but no longer qualified for Medicaid. My time in oncology was spent with two nurses who discussed how they had developed a strong sense of team in the unit.

Every leader should walk in their employees’ shoes. As leaders, we need to be reminded of, and actually experience, the things that excite our employees as well as the obstacles that exist. I don’t ever want to lose touch with what it is like to help people get access to care.

—Matt Rogers