A steadfast passion for excellence

February 12, 2018  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

Shon Dwyer, R.N., M.B.A., is the executive director of Michigan Medicine’s University Hospital and the Frankel Cardiovascular Center (UH/CVC) — a role she didn’t necessarily envision when she graduated from the U-M School of Nursing and began her career with the organization.

“I didn’t start with any particular end in mind,” said Dwyer, who, in addition to working as a clinical nurse, held positions in education, quality, compliance, information technology, management, operations and administration.  “But I was always open to new opportunities.”

Recently, Dwyer talked to Headlines about the path to her current position, the changes and constants she’s observed in her various roles throughout the organization, and how a collaborative culture can contribute to excellence at Michigan Medicine.

Q: You’ve been with Michigan Medicine for more than 30 years. How have your past roles prepared you for your current position as the administrative leader of UH/CVC?

SD: As a nurse in a large hospital system, you’re exposed to a number of different functions and systems. The opportunity is always there to develop a new skill or hone an existing skill.

At the beginning, I was open to opportunities and great leaders were willing to take a chance on me and give me some responsibility. I was willing to take risks, learn new content and skills, and learn from my failures. Chances are, if you’re willing to do that, you’re more likely to be asked to do more things — in my case, things I never imagined I’d be asked to try.

Through strategic risk-taking and being open to challenges, I was able to learn many hospital functions in a fairly deep way. I definitely draw on that when leading UH/CVC.

Q: Michigan Medicine has undergone a great deal of change during your time with the organization. What has stayed consistent?

SD: No matter what type of organizational structure we’re operating in, Michigan Medicine has been extremely consistent in its passion for excellence. The leaders and colleagues I’ve worked with over the years have been steadfast in their commitment to solve significant challenges together and with integrity.

We’ve also never wavered in our patient-oriented focus. At all levels we are devoted to providing the best, most compassionate care and putting our patients and families first. It’s easier to make difficult decisions if they ultimately lead to a better outcome for those we care for.

Q: What do you perceive as the most notable change?

The culture has become more collaborative over time. It’s impossible to adapt and solve problems without collaboration. Our current operational structure further supports this value, through the partnership between physicians and nurses to lead inpatient units, as well as the through shared leadership in each of the areas.

Q: What advantages do you think the triad leadership model — where an executive director, chief nursing officer, and chief clinical officer partner to lead equally — offers?

SD: My good friend and long-time colleague Marge Calarco, who recently retired from her role as Michigan Medicine’s chief nurse executive, often said that no one role or individual can encompass every leadership competency. An organization functions best when you put roles that are truly integral to the organization together and decisions are made with those multiple individuals.

We are truly working together to make the best decisions that hopefully lead to better outcomes for patients and employees.

Q: As we move into the second half of the fiscal year, what are you personally prioritizing as a leader?

SD: Our clinical and safety priorities, as well as improving the patient experience, remain at the forefront.

The UH/CVC triad is also continuing to emphasize improving communication throughout our entire segment. We’ve implemented new tools and platforms, such as the UH/CVC internal website and interactive town hall meetings, to increase transparency and access to information.

We’re always open to new ideas and feedback, and will continue to explore processes and mechanisms to better communicate and connect members of the organization to one another.

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