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Longtime Health Care Executive Patricia Johnson on Everyday Leadership

Recently retired as Senior Vice President for Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at Woman’s, Patricia Johnson played a key role in a vital Baton Rouge institution for decades. We were fortunate to host Johnson at the Success Labs office for a lively discussion about leadership with a group of emerging public health leaders.

Johnson fielded questions from Louisiana Office of Public Health Leadership Development Institute participants and offered valuable insights into her career path and leadership style. Here’s an overview of what she shared.

‘We Are All Leaders’

At Woman’s, Johnson was responsible for overseeing the nursing care across the organization, as well as operational responsibility for a number of key areas. She also oversaw infant and pediatric patient care, including NICU, Neonatal Transport, Respiratory Therapy, Social Services and Pharmacy, as well as Perinatal Services.

Johnson, who earned her Master of Nursing Administration from Emory University and a Doctorate of Nursing from the University of South Alabama, was appointed to the Louisiana State Board of Nursing in 2007. She has also served as President of the Louisiana Organization of Nurse Executives.

Johnson says she strongly believes that leadership is a lifelong journey and that everyone demonstrates some sort of leadership in their work and life whether they realize it or not.

“I feel like I’ve been in leadership my whole nursing career, whatever job I was in. It was just a different form of leadership,” she says. “That’s one of my personal philosophies: that we’re all leaders, particularly in health care. We’re leaders for our families, for our communities, for different groups that we’re in. It’s not just a particular role we’re in.”

Letting Perfection Go

Johnson described how when she took her first management job at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, she believed she had to be at work for long hours every day in the high-stress operating room environment. She says caring for a new baby made the high-stakes leadership role even more challenging, and prompted her to bow out of the position 18 months in.

“I felt like I couldn’t live up to the expectations of a perfect manager, so I quit,” she says. “I didn’t know how to pace myself or see that nobody can really be there all the time and be the perfect manager. Nobody can sustain that.”

She says the healthcare industry is historically deficient in providing support and encouraging work-life balance, but she tries to encourage managers she oversees to consider their long-term well-being as they advance in their careers. “You can’t do perfect,” she says.

The Power of Face-To-Face Interaction

Jonson says her leadership style is heavily dependent upon face-to-face interactions, whether she’s communicating long-term goals, understanding individual motivations and needs, or just getting to know employees better. “It’s important that I know the people that report to me, what’s important to them, and that I make an effort,” she says.

Johnson says she works hard to evaluate what each individual’s strengths are and give them projects or job duties that match those strengths. “People want to feel successful, and I try to make that happen,” she says. “If there’s something that they hate or they fail at, I try to give them something else.”

She says it’s also important to communicate what the overall mission of your organization is, while demonstrating knowledge and passion about that long-term vision. “You’re communicating where you’re going,” she says. “That takes time, and it doesn’t happen in an email. You can’t send emails out and inspire people.”

This only scratches the surface of the fascinating discussion these emerging leaders shared with Johnson. At Success Labs, we’re grateful to be able to connect rising public health leaders from varied backgrounds with established healthcare executives.

Contact us to learn more about our in-house leadership training series that can be tailored to fit your company’s needs.

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