Paula Phillips, VP of Clinical Operations, Parallon Workforce Solutions
Years in staffing: 18
Fun fact: Although Paula has been in staffing for the last 18 years, with 14 years at Parallon Workforce Solutions, she technically worked in the staffing industry prior. While working full-time as a clinician, she also took on extra per diem shifts and experienced the flip side of the staffing equation. She was soon recruited to join the industry as a Director of Business Development and quickly leveraged her network, clinical background and previous experience running homecare and hospice organizations to help solve her clients’ recruiting challenges.
I truly believe that staffing companies make a meaningful impact on people’s lives every day, but it’s not often that I speak to a staffing leader that also has the skills to save lives in the most literal sense! Paula’s background as a clinician gives her a unique perspective as she has worked with healthcare staffing in many roles: from clinician to managing staff at a healthcare facility to recruiting/sales at a staffing company to now leading clinical and compliance efforts. It was a pleasure to chat with Paula and I’m excited to share some of her unique insights below.
What attracted you to the staffing industry?
Working in the ED (emergency department), I knew that I liked fast-paced environments and change. I felt that staffing fulfilled these desires while giving me the opportunity to truly impact quality care in a different (yet meaningful) way.
How has the staffing industry changed over the course of your career?
Shortages of nurses and clinicians ebb and flow consistently, but the pressure to provide the best quality staff is constant. Yes, we have great tools now that we didn’t have when we were staffing on paper – like better screening, monitoring and credentialing – but the focus on quality that translates to great patient care is always there.
What keeps you here as the industry has shifted?
Twenty years ago, people sent from a staffing agency were often viewed as an evil necessity. They were looked at as outsiders. What excites me now are the partnerships that we’re developing with our clients to drive exceptional patient care. Before, there weren’t strong partnerships – you as a staffing provider weren’t privy to what was going on at an organization or what helps them improve their patient satisfaction. With more information sharing, we can orient people much better to make an impact on patient care and alignment with clinical initiatives.
What does it take to do well in healthcare staffing?
Character, integrity and authenticity are absolutely key to developing these partnerships. Congruency – your actions being the same as your words – is also a critical trait in this industry. I think these characteristics are the same in other staffing segments too, but healthcare is a compassionate industry so these traits are often considered even more important in this space. These are the things that make me want to partner and do business with someone. It’s what my peers and clinical leaders look for in a partner, too. I was recently meeting with a prospect and another provider had a competitive offering, and because of our extensive knowledge of the clinical side of the business and authentic understanding of the position they were in, they selected us. Sometimes this authenticity also includes telling clients what they don’t want to hear and walking away from the business, but it’s important if your goal is to develop long-term partnerships.
What are you seeing in terms of diversity in this space?
There is still an opportunity for women leaders on the staffing side to make their mark in healthcare, despite nursing and nursing leadership being female dominated. On the staffing side, there is a great deal of opportunity for women to advance and in order to do that, I think we need to continue learning and investing in personal growth. By sitting at the table and holding ourselves accountable, we continue to grow. Another critical leadership skill that is getting more attention lately (and which women often demonstrate) is emotional intelligence. Having a great deal of emotional intelligence contributes to your ability to lead and relate to different people, tailor your messages and create action while acting as a servant leader.
How do you approach your current role? And what’s next for you?
I remain optimistic and positive in everything I do. Taking challenges and finding opportunities instead of obstacles helps me keep a positive mindset and has contributed to my success. In terms of what’s next, I have a true love for this industry – and also for the facility side. I am building a true clinical leadership at our organization, answering questions like: What does true nursing leadership mean to us and our clients? How do we continue to evolve to meet the demands of the end client (the patient)? How can contract staff contribute to exceptional patient care? It goes back to that patient first mentality and letting that prevail for what we do in healthcare.
Are you an industry veteran that’s excited to share your lessons with the next generation of staffing leaders? Share your insights as part of this #womenINstaffing Wednesday series. Contact me to learn more.
Confused on the hashtag (#) in the title of this series? Let me know if you’d like to join a virtual roundtable with a few other female staffing execs to discuss the power of Twitter to build your personal brand.