By Lucy M. Pritchett
An early childhood event influenced this woman’s leadership style. From registered nurse to administrator to her current position as chief clinical officer of Hosparus Health, Terri Graham has been in healthcare her entire career. On her mind? She wants to change the conversation about end-of-life care. She says she responds to change with change, and to that end, she recently designed a new home to fit her changing lifestyle. Photo by Melissa Donald
What do you do?
I oversee clinical operations for Hosparus Health — the delivery of care and services to patients and families. A team usually consists of a CNA, a nurse, a social worker, chaplain, and volunteers. The clinical staff is made up of about 350 people. We serve 1,000 patients a day in six counties in Southern Indiana and 27 in Kentucky. I meet with the staff and visit the sites.
What challenges are you facing now?
All aspects of the healthcare industry are evolving. We have to implement new structure and programs. We’ve recently expanded into palliative care so our care isn’t geared just to those patients at the end of life.
Stay calm and don’t over-react. At any given moment you have to figure out the next step and in time the rest will come. When I was younger, our house caught on fire and we lost everything, but no one was hurt. My parents were upset, but when we kids asked, ‘What’s going to happen? What will we do?’ they responded, ‘Right now we’re just going to figure out where we are going to sleep tonight. We will figure the rest out later.’
Missteps in your early career?
As an early manager, I felt like I had to have all the answers. I didn’t want to make a mistake. But to move forward, I learned that I have to act and move on from there. I tell my staff now that we will work through any mistakes and move forward.
The ocean, movie popcorn, and lavender.
Seven years ago when I joined Hospice Health. I am a registered nurse, and for many years I worked in patient care, patient management, and as an administrator. I never thought about hospice care as a specialty, but end-of-life care is a specialty on the continuum of patient care. Think about it. We prepare for nine months for the celebration of a birth. Our goal is to make the end of life just as special and make the quality of life be the best for the patient.
Trait you dislike about yourself?
I can’t truly relax and enjoy myself if there is clutter around me. If I want to sit down with my husband and watch a movie, I make sure that the room is picked up. I am the same way at work, but sometimes things just can’t always be that way.
How do you relax?
I read every night before I go to bed. I really have enjoyed the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I like the combination of romance, history, and mystery.
What have you accepted about yourself?
I like things to be aligned. To me structure and process make sense, but things change. I respond to change with change. For instance, over the years we would move to a new home that we thought was just perfect and would be our forever home. But, as our family evolved, our needs changed. I got the itch to start designing a new space that is used differently for our current needs, so we are getting ready to move again into a new home.
What’s the last thing you bought for yourself?
A clothes steamer. I like for clothes to look pressed, and that’s quicker than ironing.
How has your leadership style changed?
I’ve become more comfortable in saying ‘I don’t know’ when I meet with the staff. I ask them to tell me what I need to know to make good decisions. There are different layers between me and the people that we serve. The staff knows, and their sharing with me helps me to be a better manager.
Makes you angry?
Lack of respect. People should show respect to each other. We can disagree but still be respectful.
Secret stash of treats?
Usually peanuts. And chocolate — dark chocolate so I can convince myself it’s healthier.
The end of life needs to be special. That is so important to me. We can equate death to the celebration of birth. As a culture we do not talk about that, but we need to have those conversations.
This category is sponsored by Clark Memorial Hospital.