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Women in Healthcare Leadership Spotlight: Robin Hoeg

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   February 04, 2021

The COO of hospital and primary care services at Winona Health details her 30-year career with the Minnesota-based health system, rising from registered staff nurse to the C-suite.

Robin Hoeg, RN, MSHA has spent her entire 32-and-a-half-year healthcare career at Winona Health, a non-profit health system that operates the only hospital in Winona County, Minnesota. Currently, she serves as the COO of hospital and primary care services.

"I have been very fortunate to have been here my entire career in multiple different roles and responsibilities. It's been wonderful," Hoeg said about her experience.

Since 1988, Hoeg has worked for Winona in several capacities, including as a registered staff nurse on the surgical floor, a registered nurse in home care, the director of home care and hospice, and the director of inpatient services.

In 2009, she joined the health system’s senior leadership team as the service line leader of inpatient services and additionally served as the administrator of Winona's long-term care residence adjacent to the hospital. In 2014, overseeing senior services was also added to her role, and last year, she gained oversight of the primary care clinics.

Robin Hoeg, RN, MSHA, COO of Hospital and Primary Care Services, Winona Health (Photo courtesy of Winona Health)

Be bold and be humble

Hoeg said her love of science married with her desire to make connections "with good will" inspired her to join healthcare as a nurse.

"I truly love supporting and taking care of people, even though it's not hands-on any longer, and assuring that people are well attended to," Hoeg said. "Nursing was just a good fit for me."

In 1988, Hoeg graduated from Winona State with a Bachelor of Science in nursing. In 2005, Hoeg earned a Master's in Health Care Administration from Bellevue University. In 2011, she received licensure in Nursing Home Administration from the University of Minnesota.

Hoeg listed her parents and Winona CEO Rachelle Schultz, EdD among her most significant mentors.

“My dad is a graduate of the eighth grade, that was all he had the opportunity to receive in school. He is a self-employed business owner, and so he has been a mentor," Hoeg said. "My dad has persevered over many obstacles. He personally is a mentor for me, and so is my mom."

"Professionally, there have been a few senior leaders who took a chance on me, but Rachelle would certainly be the biggest and most supportive mentor that I've ever had," Hoeg said. "Rachelle trusts her team. If mistakes are made, she helps you work through those, [and] expects you to learn from those, which I appreciate."

Hoeg added that Schultz is not a “micromanager” and allows her leaders to take some risks, a trait that instills responsibility and reliability in others.

“That is how I want to lead people; trusting them to do the right thing, supporting them when mistakes do happen, and helping them learn so the same mistakes don't occur over [again.] Rachelle has certainly been a support through [my career]," Hoeg said. "She has entrusted me with a big chunk of this organization to lead and I'm so appreciative of that. I couldn't have done that if I hadn't grown up here at Winona Health."

The best advice Hoeg said she has received comes from her father and Schultz: be bold and be humble.

"Don't be afraid to get uncomfortable, don't be afraid to try something different, and don't be afraid to fail, because if you don't fail, you don't learn," Hoeg said. "Rachelle has drilled that into our heads here, to not be afraid to try something different. And be as confident as you can without being arrogant, that's where 'be humble' is important in all of that.

Leading with consistency and a focus on patients

Hoeg said she strives for her leadership style to be "fair and consistent."

"They need to know that the same Robbie, every day, shows up to work, and they can rely on that consistency that I strive for each and every day."

She noted that she makes sure to be consistent with workers across the board, specifically physicians, associate providers, housekeepers, frontline nurses.

Hoeg's background in nursing has influenced her leadership style as well, as she mentioned that she wants to be patient-focused in her decision-making as a COO.

"If you keep the patient in all your decisions at the forefront, you can't make a mistake,
 she said. "If you know what patients want and need, the decisions that need to be made for their care is easy to come by. Being patient-focused is a huge part of my role as COO and that's the part I like the most."

Hoeg said she draws from her experience as an RN "almost daily" and sometimes doesn't realize that she does.

"A lot of it is remembering when I was that staff nurse, and the importance of that putting myself in the shoes of those who are taking care of others. It keeps me humble, and at the same time, lets me be bold," she said. "When you're patient-focused, you can get back to those roots of providing intimate care for patients when they need you. It's what drives me and I rely on that experience more than I realized."

When it comes to her favorite thing about being a leader, Hoeg said she likes giving opportunities, just as Schultz had given to her.

"The part I like best about [leading] is being able to coach and mentor others. Giving them the opportunities to try something new, and being interested to do that, is important to me," she said. "Someone took a chance on me, so I of course want to take a chance on other people as well, and that has been the most satisfying. Watching other nurses, respiratory therapists, and our CNAs that are going through the nursing programs and [getting to] coach and mentor them as they grow and expand their career, that's the best part about being a senior leader."

Advice for emerging C-suite leaders

Like Nike’s famed slogan, Hoeg's advice for leaders who want to make the jump into the C-suite is to "just do it."

"Get the education, get the credentials, take those courses, and just try," Hoeg said.

Giving and getting support is also important for emerging leaders as well as those already established in the C-suite.

"I want to be able to give someone those opportunities, whether it's their first leadership position as maybe a charge nurse, or a director of a department, or mentoring and coaching a new person to the C-suite," Hoeg said.

"Jump in and give it a shot, because with the support that we give each other, most people will succeed," she added.

Editor's note: This story was updated on February 4.

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Related: Women in Healthcare Leadership Spotlight: Johnese Spisso

“I truly love supporting and taking care of people ... and assuring that people are well attended to.”

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Winona Health's 49-bed acute care hospital located in Winona, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Winona Health

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