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Connie Fairchild: Mastering the business of healthcare and the art of caring

Connie Fairchild: Mastering the business of healthcare and the art of caring

Pennie Rorex, assistant vice president of corporate communication and marketing for Emanuel Medical Center, and Connie Fairchild, vice president of patient care services at Emanuel, stand in front ...

POSTED January 28, 2013 12:09 p.m.

Connie Fairchild always knew she wanted to be a nurse.

"My aunt was a labor and delivery nurse ... She would put on her white dress and cute hat and a navy cape with the white lining. I felt like she was an angel and she'd say 'I have to go deliver babies;' I wanted to be like her," Fairchild said.

After high school she enrolled in the nursing program at the University of California, Los Angeles. It wasn't long before she was working with newborn babies in the critical care unit. After giving birth to a sick child of her own and having to deal with a non-patient centered care system, she decided it was time to go back to school.

"That's it; I've got to fix this," Fairchild said of her feelings at the time. "I've got to make a difference for other moms. There's nothing worse than going home without a baby in your arms."

Fairchild went back to school to get her Master of Nursing degree and moved into the administrative side of healthcare. Ten years later, she found that there was more she could be doing to make healthcare better for the patients.

"When healthcare was changing...I realized at that point I had good leadership skills but I really needed to know business and marketing as much as I needed to know how to take care of sick patients. I got my MBA (Masters in Business Administration) so I would be able to understand the business side of hospitals and be prepared for that change," she said.

She went on to be the first nurse executive hired to develop the new Children's Hospital in Toledo, Ohio.

Today, as vice president of patient care services at Emanuel Medical Center, Fairchild oversees the nursing care of every patient that enters the 209-bed acute care hospital. She creates and implements programs and procedures that help Emanuel's nurses give the best care possible in a patient-centered atmosphere.

She credits early female administrative mentors in Toledo as giving her the inspiration needed to accomplish her goals.

"In Toledo, Ohio I had a female president and CEO. In 1995, that impressed me; I'd never seen a woman in charge of such a large hospital," Fairchild said.

This CEO was shortly succeeded by another woman, who was also a nurse.

"I was able to watch how she handled herself with the big boys. There were a lot of men in the strategic meetings," Fairchild said.

While Fairchild was learning how to improve healthcare, she found it difficult to balance her career with her home life.

"I'm not very well balanced. I feel like I'm always on. It's difficult for me (to stop thinking about work). The kids today are really better at finding a balance," she said.

Fairchild advises students looking into the healthcare field today to think about why they are doing it.

"If you don't love what you're doing; if you don't like people and caring for and being in service to others, don't do it. It's hard work."

She also recognizes how the skill sets needed for nurses have changed with the development of new medications, treatments and technology.

"Patients are so much sicker when they come to the hospital today than they were in the late 70s. Improvements in medicines and technology...years ago they just died and never really got up to the (in-patient) floors," Fairchild said.

Today, nurses have to take care of patients with multiple illnesses who are taking dozens of medications, she said. They have to know how to use computers for documentation and use complex medical machinery on a daily basis.

"It's technology and the art of caring; you need a balance of those two..they're both important," Fairchild said.

And healthcare is always changing.

"You have got to be somebody who can tolerate change," she said. "I wonder what it's going to be like 10 years from now; it's going to be dramatically different."



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