The Pursuit of Excellence: Following a Burning Passion - Gabrielle Finley-Hazle

We often hear businesses promoting service excellence. But what does that mean in the business of health care?

We’re talking with Gabrielle Finley-Hazle, a purpose-driven growth strategist who, as president and CEO of Dignity Health Arizona Central and West Valley market, part of one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the nation, has a unique perspective on the pursuit of excellence in patient care.

What does excellence mean to you, Gabrielle?

“It’s a burning drive to be the best that you can be. For example, we have set out to pursue Magnet status. The designation — currently shared by just 8 percent of U.S. hospitals — indicates you’re the best in nursing. I brought on a talented and dynamic chief nursing executive leader, who’s led several organizations to Magnet status, to help us achieve this designation. Why? I know we are the best and want our teams to get the credit for the amazing work they do. It also represents a level of excellence that our patients expect and deserve from a world-class institution.

“It’s OK if others are the best, too. There’s room for all to perform at the highest level. The goal is to enable each organization to be mission-driven and provide the best, and safest, care to their communities — care that produces measurable outcomes, creates financial viability, and demonstrates that lives are being saved.

“For many health care organizations, Toyota, the carmaker, has served as a model of excellence in how to improve safety, productivity, efficiency, and overall operations — while putting safety and the customer, in this case, safety and the patient — first. Changes inspired by the Toyota production system have had positive results for hospitals, such as improving safety and consistency and reducing costs. Virginia Mason Institute in the Pacific Northwest did a great job of applying the Toyota principles to our industry. My goal is to fully integrate these lessons into our daily practice at Dignity Health Arizona Central and West Valley markets.

How do you motivate and prepare the teams around you to share your drive for excellence so that, together, you can solve challenges and achieve growth?

“I look for team members who share a burning passion for excellence and who bring the synergies needed to create a diverse team. I’ve learned I need to understand my strengths and weaknesses and surround myself with people who have different viewpoints and who can complement our team. They provide rich and varied reflection points and are, in essence, my ‘cabinet’ of talented experts.

“Studies have found that hiring people who bring diverse thoughts brings a double-digit- percentage probability of better outcomes. Our team — high performing and greatly diverse — proved that last year in the midst of the pandemic.

How do you cope when you fall short of excellence?

“Early in my career, I was part of a team focused on securing a certificate of need for a new hospital in Florida. It was a highly visible project, and I gave it my all. We thought for sure we were going to get this approved. The president of the health care system personally came to my office to tell me our application was denied. I was crushed, and felt I’d failed a lot of people. We went on to learn the reason for the denial was not the quality of our application.

“As leaders, we come to see that failure is part of leading. The lesson was summed up well by Winston Churchill. ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’

“When I served as a CEO in West Palm Beach, I was reminded each day that the relentless pursuit of excellence had led me to this role. Amazingly, in the late 1970s, my grandmother worked at that hospital in the dietary department. As I walked the hallways, I often thought of how she would feel if she could see her granddaughter running the facility where she once delivered meals. Though our jobs were vastly different, our passion for our work — and the courage to continue — are all in the family.”

Thank you, Gabrielle, for your inspiring observations.

*****

Gabrielle Finley-Hazle is a CEO and board member. She is currently the president of Dignity Health Arizona Central and West Valley Market, a ~$2 billion flagship market of CommonSpirit Health, the largest nonprofit health system in the United States. With over two decades of experience, Gabrielle specializes in creating a mission-driven, high-performance culture that allows for company growth and effective crisis management. Gabrielle has a patient and equity-focused approach and achieves strategic growth through innovation.

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