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Grabbing the brass ring

Published on: June 5, 2014


Katie Patel of South Bay Hospital just graduated from the first Emerging Leaders program. Lia Martin photo

Katie Patel of South Bay Hospital just graduated from the first Emerging Leaders program. Lia Martin photo

In today’s challenging economy, businesses — including hospitals — are struggling to hold onto talented employees. Replacing them can cost an employer four times the employee’s annual salary. And recruiting a manager can cost a company 50 times more than it spends on his or her annual training, according to

But 90 percent of employers have found that if they give employees opportunities to develop their leadership abilities, they can provide a win-win situation.

South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center is a local example of a company encouraging their employees to stay with them.

Not long ago, Katie Patel was an emergency room registered nurse in Virginia. She served on a quality assurance committee — and found that quality assurance was her passion.

Quality assurance in healthcare assures improvement in a defined medical setting. It does so by assessing and evaluating the quality of care, identifying problems or shortcomings and finding a way to overcome those deficiencies.

When Patel had the opportunity to move to Brandon Regional Hospital in March 2012, she accepted the position. Brandon Regional is a sister hospital to South Bay Hospital. Both are Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) hospitals. Patel said she wanted to move to Apollo Beach,  and she also liked HCA’s philosophy of health care.

For years, she said, she was a traveling nurse and found that every hospital had its own standard of care. But, she said, she appreciates the same consistent standard of care she has found at HCA hospitals.

By August 2012, Patel applied for a quality assurance position at South Bay Hospital and won it.

Soon after she began working in Sun City Center, Patel learned of the Emerging Leaders program created at South Bay Hospital in partnership with Brandon Regional. The program was advertised in the hospital newsletter.

Patel applied and was accepted into the eight-month educational program developed by Marcia Collyer, director of education and organizational development for the HCA West Florida Division.

“I was inspired to create this program after going to a conference in 2007 where the new ‘buzzword’ was ‘growing your own’ leaders versus hiring from the outside,” Collyer said. “My own experience at my first job was watching them hire from the outside for all director positions, which left the managers feeling disempowered and undervalued. Also, when you hire from within, you can sustain the culture,” she said.

According to Collyer, HCA wants to retain key talent and “grow” them so they want to stay. They develop employees who demonstrate high potential and high performance — employees who seem to be leaders and leaders who would be able to follow the company’s strategy, culture and values.

Other requirements for program applicants include: being an employee in good standing for six months, with a minimum of a two-year degree; being a positive role model, taking initiative while on the job; having a willingness to grow and learn, being a high performer who will meet company expectations.

A total of 39 employees, graduated from the first Emerging Leaders program. Fifteen of them worked at South Bay Hospital and 24 at Brandon Regional Hospital.

“You had to demonstrate a desire and be recommended by your supervisor,” Natalia Diaz, South Bay Hospital marketing director, says of the Emerging Leaders selection process.

In the eight-month, five-hour-per-month course, some of the skills shared were leadership skills in communication, conflict management, diversity, motivation theories, situational leadership, service and finance.

Patel said she attributes her recent promotion to graduating from the Emerging Leaders program. The position she started this week is director of quality management at another HCA hospital. The position is a new one at the Memorial Hospital of Tampa, a hospital recently acquired by HCA.

“You have to have confidence to be an RN nurse,” Patel said. She said the Emerging Leaders program “enhanced these qualities. To have a hospital create an opportunity like this, to grow their own, is a great trait for a company to have.”

“I am happy to see Katie venture out and be hired as a director,” Collyer said of Patel. “In my seven years of doing this program in five different hospitals, there are always a few promotions by year end — it is very exciting.”