Patrick Todd

"Our core value should not be about money, prestige, or position..."

MHA Alumni Spotlight: Patrick Todd

Interview Conducted by Jahmel Fowler

What was your childhood like?
I consider my childhood to have been very positive.  I was the youngest of two boys growing up in the rural part of southwest Indiana.  I was involved in LLBB, Boy Scouts, 4-H, and church groups and I worked during the summers. My family fit the old song, ‘we were poor, but we didn’t know it’ as we didn’t have a lot of material items, but we had a great family life.

I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents and they supervised while I mowed the lawn, hunted and fished. My father had been in the U.S. Army, so I was exposed to a lot of military life which led to my enlistment in the U.S Army Reserves after high school. My family also did a lot of volunteer work, so being involved in church and civic groups is very natural to me.  There is great reward in giving back to others, doing something for others without the expectation of payment or restitution.

What were some early leadership lessons for you?
My family taught me to show up, first and foremost.  My parents rarely, if ever, took a sick day and if they did, then they were very, very sick.  I was taught to show up at work, and be “present” at work, and do the job expected of you.  To this day, I rarely am out sick.  I am blessed with good health, and I do use my vacation time, but I do not abuse my sick time. For leaders, you need to be present with your people.  They are watchful of you and if you are someone that calls off of work for illness at the drop of the hat, they will too.

I may also not be able to help clinically but I am able to lend a hand in other ways, and I have heard from the staff that they appreciate me being there and allowing them to vent to me without repercussion. I also learned that you have to live with the decisions that you make and to make them fair and just. People will not always like your decision, and they may not like you, but be fair and equal to all parties. One key lesson that I learned early on is to not form opinions about others. My family members and my church life exposed me to a lot of different things culturally, which allows me to enjoy the differences in other people. I also learned to seek out mentors. 

What was your original life plan, if not within the healthcare field?
I had entertained the thought of becoming a lawyer.  My original college major at Indiana State University was Political Science.  As a young teenager, I watched legal shows on TV, and I had initially wanted to become an attorney and move to a big city. When I went to college, I became an Emergency Medical Technician and volunteered on a couple of fire departments.

While working the ambulance, I became more involved with law enforcement officers, who had me start dispatching and working the jail. Watching the excitement of law enforcement, as a young man, I was swept into that adrenaline-pumped field at the age of 21. I left college early when I was offered a full-time police position and I absolutely loved law enforcement.  But it didn’t pay very well... I took a part-time job working security in a hospital and was quickly offered a full-time position with better pay and benefits.  So, I accepted the full-time job in the hospital and became a part-time reserve police officer, which I still do.

What is/are some of the most challenging things as a healthcare leader?
As a healthcare leader, you deal with providers and caregivers that are highly educated and perform under some of the most difficult situations imaginable, trying to save and improve lives.  Thus, when performance or behavior issues come up, it is important to deal with those in a respectful but necessary manner.  Healthcare in an acute care setting is also 24/7. There are always people working and issues to contend with, so ensuring recognition and reward covers all areas of the organizational spectrum can be challenging.

Could you give an example of a bad professional situation (such as dealing with arguments, firing, etc.) and what was the result?
I had one boss early on in my professional life that was not a good communicator.  His primary method of communication, actually, was through either leaving angry notes about some perceived action or through harsh, tense, one-sided conversations he would have with his employees. 

He would suspend employees for any perceived infraction of conduct and would not bother to investigate to find out the actual truth.  He governed through fear, with an iron fist.  None of his employees respected him, nor liked him.  We went through many people in the department while this man was in charge, and I was prepared to leave at the first chance, but fortunately, he departed first.  I knew from his failed leadership that fear does not make a team perform well. 

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be in your position?
Always remember what healthcare leadership is about…providing a framework to support caregivers that lay hands on patients to improve and save lives.  Our core value should not be about money, prestige, or position, it is about making sure that the clinicians have what they need to do a great job for the patient. 

If you are always striving to ensure that the caregivers are cared for, and that the patient is the focus of the mission, you will be a successful healthcare leader. The healthcare providers will quickly learn if you want to ride their coattails and just use them for money, rather than supporting them and removing obstacles that are in their paths to provide care.

How do you hire?
I really screen for a person’s mission, vision, and values.  Most of the job duties can be learned in time, and in the healthcare world there is much to know on a very broad spectrum, so I see that as something a person learns through the job experience.  But I want to know that a person that I am bringing in has integrity, honesty, and high ethics. 

In healthcare management, you learn a lot about other people’s private concerns, from their wages, to their health, to their personal lives.  That information is held in high regard and is very private, so people in our field must be trustworthy and have the integrity to do the right thing. A person’s character is very important to me, almost more so than their skill set.

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