WellStar Health's new leadership role: Chief of staff

CEOs of large, complex healthcare systems may find a chief of staff a wise addition to the C-suite.

As large healthcare systems become larger and more complicated, some CEOs see an advantage in hiring a chief of staff to keep things running smoothly.

While the chief of staff position is common among political organizations and large corporations, the role is relatively new in the healthcare world, Andrew Cox, chief of staff at WellStar Health System, and Andrew Chastain, managing partner and chair of Witt/Kieffer’s healthcare practice, wrote in an article for Hospital & Health Networks.

The massive pace of consolidation has led to bigger systems covering more facilities across broader geographic footprints. The industry’s evolution has also driven changes to the CEO role itself, requiring not only a broader skill set but also an ability to respond to rapid changes in the competitive and political landscape.

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At some point, CEOs may find themselves spread thin enough that they need to offload a subset of their responsibilities. That’s the sweet spot for a chief of staff, according to Cox and Chastain. The variability of both situations and CEOs makes it challenging to pin down an exact set of job requirements.

“In large organizations, communication is essential, and the chief of staff acts as a connector between the CEO and every aspect of the organization,” says Candice Saunders, CEO of WellStar Health System.

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She emphasizes the need for CEOs to have a high level of trust for any potential chief of staff hire. Cox and Chastain also recommend CEOs seek out individuals with ample executive management experience and compatible leadership styles.