Straight Talk - "Bon Voyage and Thank You"

August 28, 2014

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Hiring an employee should be a two-way street, where both parties—the employee and the organization—learn from each other. That has been precisely the case in our association with John McGirl, who joined NCH as Chief Human Resource Officer two years ago. John departs this month to return to his first love, the cruise industry, where he served for more than two decades and rejoins as Chief Human Resource Officer for a large global cruise line.

As the Boy Scouts say, John “leaves this place better off than when he came,” and I thought it instructive to share with you John’s reflections on his two years at NCH.

John’s initial impression was about the importance of what we do each day and the emotional connection we have to our patients. As he put it, “We are passionate about caring for people in the hospitality industry as well, but in healthcare we can become emotionally connected to the folks we care for everyday.” John is right. What we all do every day is so important for the patients and families we help to live longer, happier, and healthier lives.

John was also correct in his initial observation that “the healthcare industry seemed very confused about its future.” At first, he wondered if NCH, too, was “in a muddle.” But he acknowledged over time that NCH was more functional, under better control, and had a viable strategy to navigate the uncertainties of our industry to benefit our institution and community. This has indeed proven to be the case given our remarkable performance this year to date.

Assimilating into a new industry with a foreign jargon is difficult. The turning point for John came during a Joint Commission Survey when he accompanied the senior RN surveyor and commented he was “a new student;” our knowledgeable surveyor switched to “teacher” mode, and John profited from the lesson. In the months that followed, as NCH moved away from the repair shop business to prevention and wellness for the entire community, John, along with Associate Chief Human Resource Officer Renee Thigpen and their team, were invaluable in migrating the entire NCH team and their families to better health through prevention. The Human Resource team created a plan, using behavioral economics, to reduce our smoking rate to less than 12%, encourage healthy lifestyles, and reduced costs over the past five years an astounding 9.5%; all resulting in objectively better health. John plans to take this message and method back to the huge international workforce he will be leading.

John’s thoughts upon leaving NCH are also instructive. He said, “As I studied the people who managed to come in and do the work of caring every day, I observed a remarkable phenomenon. The caregivers who smiled through the day, stayed focused on ways to improve the experience, and cared for colleagues and patients alike, lived in their version of reality. The professional skills of empathy and positive affectivity and the acting that this necessitated were not separate from their person; the act is their reality. Those who identify so strongly with the work and exist so completely in its demands appear to be fueled by the emotional challenges of the work and energized by its production.” In other words, how each of us chooses to approach our work will dictate how much we enjoy that work and flourish in it. The choice, as John notes, is ours.

John McGirl was with us but two years, but it was long enough to make a significant impact. We wish John only the best. He will always be welcome at NCH, which he declares is “my hospital.” And he means it.


Allen S. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO

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