How rural, small-town hospitals can attract competitive CEOs

If they want to survive in the new era of budget-strapped, ever-evolving healthcare, rural hospitals and small-town health systems must attract innovative and passionate CEOs who can lead the organization into the future, making changes to stay viable in a shifting market.

Rural hospitals need to understand their appeal, look for leaders who fit their mission and act like a big-city operation in order to attract a competitive CEO, writes Beth A. Nelson, a consultant for the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, in Oak Brook, Ill., in an article for Hospitals & Health Networks.

When conducting searches for a new CEO, rural hospital leaders need to look for a person who is relationship-oriented, a good listener, physician-friendly, board-friendly, and is willing to become part of the community, Nelson writes.

Rural hospitals can choose to partner and align with facilities that have the same goals, which can help secure financial stability, she says. Embracing technology will keep hospitals relevant and meet the changing needs of rural communities, as well as prove that rural hospitals are willing to change with the times and strive for the future. These hospitals must also prove they understand funding and finance, she writes, by being technically and strategically progressive, even on a modest budget, making the most out of grants and government funding programs.

Finally, Nelson says rural facilities should play up the "small-town" feel working and living in a smaller community gives--an opportunity to play a bigger, more important role in patient and employee interactions.

Although many rural hospitals around the country are struggling because of decreased Medicare reimbursements, difficulty recruiting physicians and rising costs of fuel and equipment, Nelson writes that prospective CEOs will embrace the challenges if they know the organization is dealing with them proactively and creatively. 

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