Cheri Barton has been the chief executive officer at Hillsboro Community Hospital for a week, and she has learned that the job of chief executive officer requires her to be all things to all people.
She has to hold a steady hand over the budget to please her board of directors.
“Finances can’t be the only reason for a decision,” Barton said. “It is a business.”
She has to maintain a rapport and support all of her staff at the hospital. She has to push those same staff members whenever possible to keep the best possible care of patients.
She said the most important role a rural hospital CEO can play is to be a visionary.
“To see where the hospital can go,” Barton said. “It’s not an easy job.”
The vision Barton sees before her is a hospital in transition. The loss of the physician at the clinic has left the mood in the medical arena very unsettled. It has affected the physician-patient dynamic. She has begun the effort to bring on a new physician, with a letter of intent ready to sign.
“We’re working hard to bring a settling force,” Barton said.
Currently HCH employees are unsettled because of the change of leadership. Barton is hoping to hold weight with her staff because she has worked her way up to the CEO position.
She began her career as a medical assistant.
“I figured if I could do that, I could be a nurse,” Barton said.
She worked at a nurse in her hometown hospital, Reynolds County Memorial Hospital in Ellington, Mo., until 2001 when she joined HMC/CAH, which owns HCH.
“I’m very engaged in the hospital process,” Barton said. “I know the patients that are in the hospital. I will know the nurses and all the employees.”
Barton’s first administrator job was working as the director of nurses at Reynolds County Memorial Hospital in 1998.
“I wanted to make changes to the care that was provided,” Barton said. “To have that influence, I needed to be in administration.”
Where Barton wants to be a changing force at Hillsboro Community Hospital is expanding the clinic and swing bed services — between inpatient and outpatient services.
The clinic already features two optometrists, a general surgeon, orthopedist, urologist, cardiologist, rheumatologist, and pain clinic doctors who work at the clinic part time.
“They’ve decreased volumes,” Barton said of the clinic. “We just want to build a base and get returns.”
Barton does not want to forget her roots. She was born and raised in Ellington, a town of about 1,000 people.
Her husband Kenny has stayed in Ellington even as Barton has moved with HCM/CAH from Ellington to Oswego, forward to Seiling, Okla., and finally to Hillsboro. He has worked in the lead mine in Ellington for 30 years and farms the family land.
Barton’s youngest son, Brandon works in a limestone mine.
“Mining and farming, that’s what they do,” Barton said of Ellington residents. “And they’re really intense about it.”
Barton’s older son, Chris moved with Barton to Seiling where he works for a nitrogen company.
Although she will attempt to be a proactive thinker as CEO, Barton wanted to assure employees that she would not ignore every day hospital operations.
“They’re in the trenches; they’re out there saving peoples’ lives, caring for them,” Barton said. “The patient doesn’t only need to be cared for, the staff does too.”
Even with the current uneasiness at the hospital, Barton said the CEO job at Hillsboro Community Hospital has appealed to her while working with other HCM/CAH hospitals.
“Hillsboro has seemed like the perfect place to be,” Barton said.