ACHE 2017: A young hospital CEO stays optimistic about the future despite uncertain healthcare landscape

Nicholas "Nico" R. Tejeda, CEO of The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus, received the Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year this week at the American College of Healthcare Executives 2017 Congress on Healthcare Leadership.

CHICAGO—Nicholas “Nico” R. Tejeda admits it’s easy to be cynical in these uncertain times. Indeed, many healthcare executives are discouraged about the future and what new federal regulations will mean for hospitals and patients.

But Tejeda, CEO of The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus in El Paso, Texas, isn’t ready to give up on the nation’s healthcare delivery system.

“To be an exceptional leader perhaps we should be optimistic to lead the organization,” Tejeda told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview at the American College of Healthcare Executives 2017 Congress on Healthcare Leadership, where he received the Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year.

Regardless of what is happening at the national level, Tejeda says his healthcare organization’s mission will remain the same. “Our purpose remains constant. We run the risk now of following the headlines believing that healthcare is broken. It’s still one of the best in the world. People aspire to be part of our health system. We should be proud of it.”

Despite the turmoil within the industry, Tejeda has reason to be positive about the future. For the first time in his life, he says, he actually loves what he is doing and can’t wait to get to work each morning.

He now oversees the nation’s newest teaching hospital, which opened in January in collaboration with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. Most exciting is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish the culture of a new organization that will serve a medically underserved area in El Paso.

While he liked his past positions, which included stints as COO of Twin Cities Community Hospital, a Tenet Health hospital in Templeton, California, and as chief executive officer of The Doctors Hospital of Manteca in California, he says he never loved them.

“This has changed my life,” he says. “I can’t emphasize enough that the cliché is true. The value of finding a job you love is immeasurable, and if you love your job you don’t work a day in your life. I’m blessed.”

Tejeda took over as the leader of the hospital halfway through its construction, but has been involved in hiring staff and establishing policies and procedures. He says it’s especially exciting to create a culture from the very beginning where team members are respectful of one another and patient safety is mission-critical for all employees.

There are no acceptable levels of errors, he says. And while it may be nearly impossible to achieve zero incidents, he wants the organization to strive for it.

“Our focus is safety, to fundamentally be a safe hospital. If we start there or if any hospital starts there, patient experience will take care of itself, quality metrics will take care of itself as will employee morale,” he says.

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