Advancing from Nursing to the President’s Chair: Anything is Possible

By Fran Laukaitis, MHA, BSN, FACHE
President, Methodist Charlton Medical Center

Fran Laukaitis was recently named president of Methodist Charlton Medical Center. Fran served as Methodist Charlton’s chief nursing officer since 2010. She is the first registered nurse to ever serve as president of a Methodist Health System facility. 

I have been a nurse for 40 years, and never imagined that I would be leading a great health care organization today. Initially, I spent 15 years as a bedside nurse in the ICU. But when I had the opportunity to start taking leadership roles, I continued to moonlight in ED and ICU because I never wanted to lose site of the most important focus — caring for patients.

It may surprise you to learn that my aspiration was not to be where I am today. Instead, I was willing to serve in whatever capacity I was needed. Throughout my career, when a supervisory position was offered to me, I took it. From nursing to ancillary and support departments to plant operations, that willingness to learn was a valuable lesson. As a result, today I have experience in most of the departments within the hospital.

I think there are five characteristics that make a great health care leader:

  1. Recognize that all decisions need to be centered on what’s best for the patient, because that’s the heart of our business.
  2. Leaders must have and demonstrate integrity.
  3. A leader must always strive to be fair and bring people together. As a nurse, one might think I may favor nurses; however, I learned that the person who really needs to win is the patient. So if our decisions are based on what’s best for the patient, then it brings disparate parties together to achieve success as a team.
  4. Every great leader I’ve observed or read about has possessed a strong work ethic balanced by kindness and compassion.
  5. Finally, a leader must have an overwhelming desire to be a leader, even if it means stepping out of his or her comfort zone.

Along the way, I have been fortunate to have outstanding mentors who have given me sage advice. An example is when I chose the program for my master’s degree. I sought counsel from my mentor, and she gave me two pieces of advice that changed my career and my life. First, she recommended pursing a Master of Health Administration. She was right. Second, she encouraged me to join the American College of Healthcare Executives. Again, she was on target.

Using past experience as a guide, here are my tips for young professionals:

  1. Don’t wait to continue your education. Learning is a lifelong endeavor.
  2. Take advantage of opportunities. You’ll end up where you’re supposed to be. Don’t be afraid to take chances.
  3. Stay present. Some people are so busy getting to the next step in their careers, they fail to focus on the present. Instead, focus on where you are right now so you can do your best job today.

How is my experience as chief nursing officer now helping me in my role as president? I don’t have to rely on what others tell me about the need for medical equipment or clinical resources. As a clinician, I understand what their challenges are. The physicians also appreciate the fact that I “get it.” And when I need to lobby for scarce resources, I feel that I represent Methodist Charlton well because of the breadth of my clinical background.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my job is that employees tell me that I “fill them up.” But when they ask who fills me up, they’re surprised to learn that it’s all of them. They inspire me daily. My goal is to show them that you can do anything if you work hard, have integrity, and do what’s right. These beliefs carry over to who I surround myself with on my leadership team. I can teach skills — finance, budgeting, managing — but I can’t teach attitude. I want to be surrounded, and I want our employees to be surrounded, by people who are positive and recognize that what we do for a living is a privilege.

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity and to do this work.

If you’re ready to pursue limitless possibilities for your career, then choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.

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