Kelly Rakowski, President of Leadership and Search Solutions, AMN Healthcare
You’ve had a very diverse career so far, working with a number of important companies with large health care practices (Xerox, GE, Accenture). How did you become interested in the health care industry?
I went to college to pursue a career in business or finance. While attending the University of Rochester, I had a work study job at the Medical Center (then Strong Memorial Hospital) in the Cardiology Department … solely because my mother’s best friend was an Administrative Assistant! During those 10-hours per week and subsequent full time jobs in the summers, I become enamored with hospitals. I loved the mission, the culture, supporting the clinicians and, of course, helping patients. I had the great fortune of getting mentoring by the COO who educated me on the field of health administration and encouraged me to pursue a post-graduation education. I took that advice and gratefully was admitted to the University of Michigan’s Health Services Management & Policy program and earned my Master’s in 1993. From there I completed a fellowship with the organization now known as Trinity Health. It was there I was exposed to healthcare consulting and started my career with Ernst & Young, followed by other great companies dedicated to healthcare services and technology.
You’ve held your role as President, Leadership and Search Solutions at AMN for almost a year now. What do you do there? Do you enjoy it, and why?
I love it! The work we do, placing experienced healthcare leaders and clinicians who can navigate the changing landscape quickly and effectively in organizations that need their expertise, is so interesting and challenging, in addition to being crucial to the healthcare industry as a whole. I believe strongly that being a leader is a responsibility, not a job, and that’s how I approach my role, and how we at AMN measure the leadership talent we place and staff. We work to understand the leadership landscape and have a strategy that results in more impactful leaders, healthier cultures and better patient outcomes. I like that the work I do can make such a difference in people’s lives. I also love the culture of AMN – it’s purpose-driven and highly collaborative.
The health care industry is continuously evolving and innovating and your background is in health care transformation. What trend or opportunity are you most excited about?
Population health and value-based care. The passing of ACA and the trend toward value-driven reimbursement was such a catalyst for the industry to rethink how we approach healthcare. I am so encouraged by the level of collaboration among stakeholders to focus on the health consumer (not just the patient!) The advancements we’ve had over the last decade in improving the coordination of care and services is terrific. And now we are seeing the focus on addressing the social needs and determinants – housing, access to appropriate nutrition, education and mental health and well-being.
AMN has so many great women leaders. In your role, how do you continue to promote and support women leaders?
You are right about AMN - Susan Salka, AMN Healthcare’s CEO, is a great role model for many women and leaders. We are both committed to more diversity in leadership for the industry and our organization. I try to make an impact in three ways. First – being a role model. I take my position very seriously in that I can help young women see themselves as a leader, which gives them confidence to aspire there. Second, I mentor and support individual women and groups in their professional and personal development. The most rewarding thing for me is to see them advance and grow to their full potential. And finally, I try and create an environment of inclusion and diversity. Every day I strive to educate, coach others and address unconscious biases or micro aggressions that are so ingrained in our workplaces and society. Everyone knows to use the term “girl” in the workplace with caution!
At the Summit, we heard from many of the speakers about things they’ve learned along the way that made them better executives. What is one of your pearls of wisdom you share with executives you manage?
What I’ve discovered is the most powerful leadership characteristic for me is authenticity. People are looking for honesty in communication. I routinely hear that people value and appreciate that I am genuine and honest in my communications. So my advice is to be true to yourself. Bring your whole self to whatever situation you are in – whether at work or in the office. Be vulnerable. When you don’t know the answer, say so! And then go get it and follow up. We are all human and I have found that if I can relate to people on a personal level, put myself out there, they will respond and engage.
How can WBL members support you and your goals at AMN?
I was overwhelmed by my experience at the Summit - WBL members are great! Everyone was so engaged and genuine in their interactions. The opportunities to network, and the continued support in helping to find talent has been incredibly helpful. If you are looking for a new role – either permanent or on an interim basis - please let me know! Or if you need assistance with hiring new talent (leaders, physicians, clinicians of all levels) or with ways your organization can improve its full talent lifecycle and performance, we would love to provide advice or partner with you.
Personally or professionally, what might the WBL network be surprised to know about you?
Fitness is a passion! Athletics have always been a major part of my life. I played several sports in high school and went on to play college soccer. Since then I’ve stayed active – running (have done 4 marathons), strength training and still play in a competitive women’s soccer league! Taking time to stay fit helps me be better at all my roles – mother, wife, leader, and friend. It also gives me confidence, strength and is my time to reflect.
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