By Paul Balcom, MHA, RN, FACHE
In 1952 when I was a young aspiring student of hospital administration, my mentor, a physician and administrator, advised that both business and clinical grounding would best serve as preparation for my career. That advice started my long journey into nursing and influenced me to later serve as a mentor myself.
I am confident that my nursing background added greatly to my success over my administrative career, including my involvement in nursing organizations. My nursing background enhanced my self-confidence and contributed to my maturity, as I dealt with the diversified fabric of the ever-changing hospital and public health scenes. I feel the respect I gained from my peers was due in part to my nursing background. I had a sense that I was perceived as able to mix with the troops versus being perceived as the man in the suit in the front office, since I understood their environment.
Although I supported other disciplines, I was a staunch supporter of nurses. Insights gained from a nursing education and practice added greatly to my sense of purpose. Medical staff relationships were favorably bridged as we spoke a common language. As I built my executive staff, I required that each of my senior executives had previously functioned in some capacity related to direct, hands-on patient care.
In 2002 and 2003, I volunteered for three tours as an OR circulating nurse with Medical Ministry International surgical operating teams in the Dominican Republic, and I recruited nurses to volunteer with MMI, as well. A few years after retirement, at age 72, I was invited to volunteer with MMI, as an OR circulating RN. Doubting my very rusty OR skills, I suggested that I could better serve as a truck driver or in an alternate role. The physician project leader assured me that with focused on-the-job retraining I could do the job. Reluctantly I agreed to serve in the OR and took the necessary refresher and training courses for my first of three missions to the Dominican Republic.
In retirement I had been serving as resident of a nonprofit foundation. This foundation later supported my recruitment of volunteer nurses and other healthcare personnel for MMI missions by providing generous scholarship support for future mission participants.
Over the years young folks have been referred to me for employment and career counseling, just as I benefited from mentoring at the beginning of my career. As I received, so I gave, enjoying the fulfillment of beneficially touching the lives of others. Mentorships, whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, are meaningful, significant relationships that enrich everyone involved and improve our profession. And whether your goal is to become a healthcare administrator, manager or team leader, your nursing background will serve you well.
Paul C. Balcom, MHA, RN (retired), FACHE, lives in Lorain, Ohio. He practiced at several Minnesota hospitals and, as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, 92nd Field Hospital, he trained medics in patient care and later served as a medical detachment commander for an infantry battalion. He served as a senior executive/CEO at several hospitals and was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing in 1995.
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