New Stevens exec will monitor regulation compliance

  • Sue Waldburger<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:57am

The newest member of Stevens Hospital’s executive team may be retired military, but her management style looks to be anything but.

Building trust and relationships with those both inside and outside the walls of Stevens is what Vivian “Joannie” Strickland said will be her focus as executive director of quality management, regulatory compliance and infection control. She’s the newest member of the executive team headed by CEO Michael Carter, with whom Strickland worked prior to his move from Arizona to Edmonds last summer.

Strickland, 52, has been charged with making sure Stevens is in compliance with state and federal — including Medicare — requirements and prepared for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) review that the hospital again will undergo in 2007. Her newly created position, which carries an annual salary of $125,000, also involves dealing with patient complaints and process improvements at the hospital that’s working to improve its image and bottom line.

Strickland comes to Stevens from Mesa General Hospital in Mesa, Ariz., where she served as director of quality and case management. Prior to that she was director of quality, risk and compliance for Kindred Healthcare in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Chesterfield General Hospital in Cheraw, S.C. Her experience also includes work as director of medical operations and quality service for the United State Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

A licensed practical nurse, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University and a master’s degree in management from Troy State University. She is working on her master’s of science degree in health-care administration from Troy State.

Strickland credits her 24 years in the military with being a kind of boot camp for her health-care-management career, which demands she be a stickler for documentation. Hospitals across the country, she noted, have the same regulatory agencies and compliance issues. The only difference, she continued, is that she wore a military uniform to work at one, and civilian clothes to the other.

“The health care industry is learning from the aviation industry’s safety and quality management programs,” commented Carter. “Joannie has been recognized as an expert in the Air Force Medical Readiness and Quality Air Force Assessment programs.”

Strickland insist she is not a “military-type of authoritarian leader.” Rather, she said, “I like people to be involved with what’s going on. The people here want Stevens to succeed. They are so open to change. Everywhere I go here people say ‘teach me.’ I love that.”

The South Carolina native who has lived all over the world and visited every state except Oregon and New Hampshire, said “I’m not a person to sit behind a desk. Quality is all about performance improvement. The government says you have to do certain things … but how you do it is up to you, as long as you get the job done.”

A sense of humor is another attribute of the proud mom of a 26-year-old son and best buddy to Lulu the bassett hound. When asked why she left balmy Arizona for Seattle in the dead of winter, Strickland quipped in her Southern drawl, “Honey, when you’ve spent a month in a tent in Korea, this is nothin’.”

While she house hunts, Strickland also gets a kick out of the fact her new phone number formerly belonged to a popular Edmonds restaurant. “I get people calling me for reservations every night. I think I’m gonna start making ‘em.”

Joannie Strickland said she is charmed by Edmonds. The town, she said, reminds her of growing up near Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“I have job satisfaction,” she added, “and that’s another reason why I love it here.”

Strickland expressed optimism Stevens Hospital will continue its financial turn for the better and earn back the confidence of employees, medical staff and the community. She said Carter has achieved a healthy balance of devotion to family, career and Stevens, as a reason for the hospital’s inevitable success.

“No, we’re not the University (of Washington Medical Center). But we have a place as a community hospital,” she said of Stevens. “Just because you are bigger, that doesn’t mean you are better. We’re neighbors helping neighbors. That’s good.”

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