The Craft File
- Senior director of facilities, construction and environmental services service line at Premier Inc., Huntersville, N.C.
- Corporate vice president of laundry, linen and food services at Atrium Health, Charlotte, N.C.
- Vice president of support services, NorthEast Medical Center at Atrium Health, Charlotte.
- Director of nursing, neuroscience service line, NorthEast Medical Center at Atrium Health.
- ASHE past Advisory Board member.
- ASHE Healthcare Leadership Development Council Committee co-chair.
- ASHE Senior status designation.
- Author of several articles.
- Registered nurse, Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, Concord, N.C.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Wingate University, Monroe, N.C.
- Master of Healthcare Administration, Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, N.C.
- Kenan-Flagler Business School, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Donna Craft, R.N., MHA, SASHE, has embraced each new role in her career, from nursing to facilities management to sourcing and contracting. This month, she discusses giving back to the field and serving as co-chair of the American Society for Health Care Engineering’s (ASHE’s) Healthcare Leadership Development Council.
Describe your transition from a nursing career into health care facilities management and support services.
As a critical care nurse, my role was about process and speed to decisions. The basis for the nursing process is assessment, diagnosis, outcomes identification, planning, implementation and evaluation. The process implies that care is provided based on a plan and an effective way for nurses to use their time more efficiently while promoting better communication practices between members of the health care team. One day, out of the blue, my chief operating officer explained to me that there was a large construction project that was not on time or on budget, and I needed to “fix it.”
Not knowing what I was doing but motivated by a challenge, I went to the construction trailer for an owner, architect and general contractor meeting. To a process-oriented nurse, that meeting was a train wreck: everyone pointing fingers, finding fault and blame but having no plan. In that moment, I did what I had to do and chose to fake it until I made it.
Leveraging the skills I used in caring for patients, I needed to assess the situation, decide on a plan and do it. I told the general contractor, “You no longer have owner issues. I’ll have any answers you need within 24 hours.” He laughed at me, but the end result was that the project was completed on time and on budget.
I learned that while there is obviously a process to how a building gets constructed, everyone was playing their own game. No one was working together toward a common goal. So, I turned our construction process on its head and came up with a process and plan to operate as a team.
How did you go about developing the skills you needed to make that transition successful?
Being successful at managing people through a process, in retrospect, was the easy part of my new role. Once I had the engine running, I needed to find out what it was going to take to sustain and be successful in a field I knew little about.
I quickly realized there was a big world of codes and regulations that had to be followed to keep the doors open, and I was responsible to ensure that happened. I immediately started researching who holds the key to that information, and it became very clear that it was ASHE. It was a positive indicator for me that they are a professional membership group of the American Hospital Association, a respected partner from my nursing and leadership experience.
I immediately joined and attended my first conference. I focused, learned the hot topics of the day and started the foundation to grow my knowledge base. Being successful is more than a linear path of knowledge. It’s being flexible, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, always asking questions, building a trusted network and being passionate and persistent about it. ASHE checked all those boxes.
Sitting at a conference in the back of a room taking notes was not going to get me where I wanted to go. I networked, told my story and was invited into the working groups and committees of ASHE. I was surprised they wanted to know from my perspective what worked and what could be changed and improved in their field as much as I needed them to teach me what they knew. I made it my business to jump in feet first, participate in everything I could, ask questions and soak in all I could learn about the health care facilities field.
What you need to keep in mind for the journey is that good leaders do not have to be the smartest people in the room. What you must have is an inner perspective to understand your strengths and work to improve your weaknesses.
In what ways have you given back to the field since becoming an ASHE member?
ASHE gave so much to me, through individual time and the tools to learn and grow in a completely new field. I am dedicated to giving back my time and experience to continue to grow the facilities field and future leaders by continuous volunteering. I have participated in multiple committees as a committee member, chair and co-chair. I have been a part of the ASHE Leadership Institute, served on the ASHE Advisory Board, published articles and video clips, and worked to prove it was all possible with the Senior status ASHE member designation. It’s a personal commitment to help others, but in every aspect of my volunteering, I grow and gain knowledge from others.
What are you hoping to help accomplish as part of the Healthcare Leadership Development Council?
This committee is important for the folks dedicated to growing and moving to the next level. How do we give them a path to include in their personal journeys? We are working to pull together current ASHE resources, in addition to finding the gaps in ASHE resources and education, that will help people along their career journey and create that path for people who want to put in the work to transition to a higher level. The facilities teams are aging, and there is a real need to help with succession planning and motivating the next generation.
How has your clinical and nonclinical experience helped to prepare you for your current role at Premier?
My experiences, from not passing bed-making the first time in nursing school to being a critical care nurse and then vice president of support services to now being at Premier, have all been building blocks in my career. There is always something to learn, but you don’t throw away one job and move on to the next. You take with you the lessons learned and processes needed for the next challenge. When moving to different roles and up the ladder, look ahead of you. Who are the people you respect, and what are the resources you can tap into?
My lifeline for facilities knowledge was ASHE. When you don’t even know what you don’t know or need to know, it is humbling, and your support network is extremely important. All these experiences and knowledge I have carried with me to my current role at Premier, which involves true sourcing and negotiating contracts. The key is to bring your skills and knowledge and grow into the needs of the new role.
What advice do you have for others transitioning into a new role?
Success is a personal commitment. It’s not given; it’s earned. A quote from Deion Sanders, college football coach and former NFL player, is relevant today: “What if you are afforded your opportunity or your chance? Are you prepared? Are you ready? Can you handle the pressure, the moment, the expectations or the seriousness? Are you built for this? Can you handle the scrutiny of the position? Evaluate you — because your time is coming and you may only get one shot to seize the opportunity.”
I would also say, “Prepare for success now. Be positive and persistent.” I’ve made it my business to step outside the box and figure out what others are doing and why and how it all works together to be prepared when called upon. Don’t bury your head and just do your job — be curious and prepare for where you want your career to go.
Jamie Morgan is editor of Health Facilities Management magazine.