As the chief operating officer at Hialeah Hospital, Shirley Adkins is responsible for the daily operations of the 256-bed acute care facility, as well as for patient, physician and community engagement. Having held this role for the past two years, she understands the importance of learning from a vast array of subject matter experts, both within and outside of the hospital.
“When you limit yourself to just networking with the organization you receive income from, you’re bottlenecking your ability to grow,” she explained. “It’s important to know what’s going on globally, and to reach outside your existing career to see the broader picture.”
This is especially important in today’s world, when COVID is affecting every aspect of healthcare.
“What I like most about my job is collaborating with the staff and problem-solving - coming up with best practices and improving the hospital environment and processes,” she said. “How we’re dealing with COVID is a good example; our entire team is working together to find the most efficient way to implement CDC guidelines into our existing infrastructure. Everyone is engaged in finding the best ways to implement the new rules and be safe in areas ranging from infection control to security to plant operations.”
Adkins joined Hialeah after serving as the chief engineer and facilities director at a not-for-profit healthcare facility in west Tennessee. “I felt that the next step in my career was to become a COO, and during my interview, Hialeah just felt right,” she said.
While her day-to-day role includes assessing the hospital’s processes and environment, one of her major challenges at the moment is overcoming the community’s perception of hospital safety in the time of COVID.
“We want people to understand that the hospital is safe and that they can come have their elective procedures done here,” said Adkins, adding that the hospital is following best practices to ensure that COVID cases are kept separate from other areas. “This requires tying all of the components together from physician relations, to public relations, to staff engagement; we all need to be on the same page.”
Adkins enjoys collaborating with different groups of people, and considers it a crucial part of the learning experience. It’s one of the reasons that she joined ACHE of South Florida two years ago. “It’s important to work with people and organizations that keep you sharp,” said Adkins, who holds Bachelor of Chemistry and Bachelor of Civil Engineering degrees, as well as an MBA in Healthcare Administration. She is also a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) green belt with over 15 years of experience in construction and design infrastructure.
“I appreciate ACHE’s networking aspect, because it provides me with the opportunity to be around subject matter experts who share their best practices and experiences,” she explained of the learning opportunities provided. “Sometimes that’s better than getting an actual continuing education credit.”
Though Adkins began her career as a professional engineer, she realized that it was not the experience she wanted.
“I like to run projects; I’m more hands-on,” she explained. “As a COO, I touch all aspects of the hospital from the floors to the roof to the morgue to labs and medication.
“To me, healthcare is more of a calling than a job,” she added. “It’s a blessing to serve others. I tell people thinking about entering the field that though it’s challenging, if your heart is in providing service to others, you’ll enjoy it thoroughly.’”