WHEN Member Profile
Kim Keene is the President of WHEN and is employed as Assistant Vice President of Operations for Ochsner Health System’s North Shore division. Displaying an aura of savvy for business growth and relationship building, Kim has successfully delivered on an all-inclusive healthcare calling.
WHEN: Can you describe your professional career path?
Kim: I began my nursing career working in critical care taking care of the sickest of the sick while loving every moment of the adrenaline rush. I was approached by leadership within the organization to expand my role to include the Emergency Department, and all Critical Areas including the PACU. The position re-ignited my competitive drive, which led to additional roles with increasing levels of responsibility. My operations break happened in 1990 while serving as general manager for a home infusion company in the states of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Western Pennsylvania. In 1992, I was recruited to New Orleans, as Vice President of Cardio-Pulmonary for Touro Infirmary. Over the years, my role within Touro expanded. The healthcare landscape changed dramatically after Katrina and I relocated and assumed executive positions with for profit health care entities. I made the decision to leave hospital leadership and enter the world of physician practice management. I believe that practice management along with population health is the future of healthcare in the United States and I wanted to be part of it. All in all, my passion for nursing has been a constant staple throughout my career; placing patients at the forefront of every operational decision.
WHEN: Who have been the people who have influenced you the most in your career?
Kim: I grew up during the generation of social activism and social change. I was fortunate to have teachers who exposed me to those less fortunate and made me think about how I could make a difference. I was committed to finding a profession that would allow me to make a difference and positively impact the society. I owe my nursing instructors a good deal of credit for my skill set. I have been fortunate to have a supportive family that encouraged me to pursue my career aspirations; with a husband that cheered me on every step of the way. Lastly, I have been fortunate to have wonderful leaders from CEOs, physicians, nurses and other healthcare leaders that have influenced my career. They taught me to look at situations from all angles and to push beyond the expected or anticipated. I learned the importance of inspiring the people so the organization can accomplish great things.
WHEN: What is one of your proudest career moments?
Kim: I have lots of things I am proud of. Most memorable to include: the first Chest Pain Emergency Department in New Orleans; development of a program to provide free mammograms for the working uninsured; the first Alternative Medicine clinic; and bringing specialties services to patients. Most importantly, developing new leaders while making a difference for others, and holding true to my social conscience.
WHEN: If there was one thing you could change in the professional climate, what would it be?
Kim: Women are the powerhouse of healthcare. What I mean by this, is nursing is historically a women’s industry, and nursing is the foundation for healthcare in the United States. More women need to be in leadership positions. I remember how excited and proud I was for WHEN member, Mary Brown, to become the CEO/Hospital Director for Ochsner Hospital. She was the first woman to get the “Big job,” in New Orleans and was an inspiration to all of us. Mary is also known for “bringing the pant suit” to the executive board room. It is discouraging as an Executive to see that women are still significantly underpaid and underutilized compared to male counterparts; this is the landscape even in our NOLA market.
WHEN: Describe your leadership style
Kim: I am extremely passionate and enthusiastic about my work and team. I am a driver and a participatory leader. I tell my team to always have the patient at the forefront and an end game in mind. I guess I have always been a little different in that, I think I was born fearless. I want to inspire others to go after what they want, when they want it. Healthcare is not a democracy, however people deserve to have a voice; what they have to say just may impact the future!
WHEN: What professional accomplishments are you proudest of?
Kim: One of the biggest compliments is to look around the New Orleans market and see CEO’s and VP’s who once worked for me. Knowing that I helped in their development means so much. I believed in them, and now they are top executives. Their accomplishments are well-deserved; I encourage them to pass it forward.
WHEN: How do you interview?
Kim: I ask situational questions. I look at their foundation. Is the candidate kind, caring, compassionate, smart? Do they have a sense of humor? I ask silly questions sometimes, such as: do you play a musical instrument? Do you have pets? I ask them about who has influenced them in their life. A person’s fundamental core is more important to me. Relationship building is key; the skill set will come.
WHEN: How do you balance work and life?
Kim: I am much better about this now than I used to be. I have learned that you have to be in charge of getting and keeping your own balance. As a young leader, many companies will work you until you drop if you let them. It is hard because as you start to advance, the idea of further advancement can be addictive in a way. Remember, you set your priorities and timeline.
WHEN: We’ve all had some professional faux pas along the way. What were some of your and what did you learn from them?
Kim: Well, immaturity came into play once when I was in charge of a project, but did not talk to the appropriate parties. As a result, some significant physical plant issues surfaced that I had not considered because I had not consulted with the Facilities Department. That experience taught me the importance of coordinating with others, and to look beyond my part of the project. I am kind-hearted and have sponsored some people that I probably should not have. Now, I am much more apt to act in accordance with my inner voice.
WHEN: What was the biggest challenge?
Kim: Hurricane Katrina. I wanted to give up. I had to pick myself up, and my husband provided me the strength to keep moving forward.
WHEN: How have you changed over the years?
Kim: I am intrinsically aggressive. I am more patient and more tolerant of others. Previously, if I “smelled blood in the water,” I would go in for the “kill”, I don’t do that anymore; or, I try not too!
WHEN: What advice do you have for women leaders who are advancing in their careers?
Kim: Find a sponsor. A mentor will give you advice and some coaching, but a sponsor with advocate and share your accomplishments with others. A sponsor will introduce you to new networks; it is very important to network throughout your career. As you advance, stand up for your employees. Own up to mistakes and support each other. Demand better salaries. I tell young leaders don’t always play it safe. Take chances and do not be afraid to shake things up. Always be kind and always have integrity.