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This Member Spotlight episode of the Insights podcast
features Lauren K. Harris, FACMPE, owner of Harris Healthcare Consulting
Harris, a former jazz vocalist, talks about her healthcare journey, the importance of putting yourself first, and lifelong learning.
Editor’s note: The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What were you working on before you started your firm?
My first healthcare job was as an optician and optometry clinic manager. So I learned about the combination of retail sales and healthcare early on, and from there became a medical office biller, eventually an ambulatory surgery center business office manager, and worked my way up through the industry to being a clinic manager. And so that led me to experiences at some larger health systems that we have out here. But my dream was really to run a private practice. And I knew that in order to get the skill set that I needed, or to validate the skill set that I would need to run in my private practice, pursuing my certification became a goal of mine. So that was one of the things that really led me to MGMA was the pathway to certification.
Q: You earned your ACMPE in 2008 and your FACMPE in 2013, what led you there? Talk about your experience.
I was getting older and got my bachelor's degree with a significant amount of student loan debt. So I didn't see a pathway to a master's degree at that time, or maybe even ever. And so I thought, ‘Well, how can I really validate my commitment and my experience and my knowledge in this industry in another pathway?’ And that became focusing on certification first, and then fellowship second. So I wear that as a badge of honor, because I don't have an MBA or MHA, or some of those other degrees that folks have. But I feel like it really shows my narrow expertise and focus in the industry that I'm really passionate about. So it became a priority.
I joined some local study groups - we had a group of us who went through certification together, who could support one another. And it just naturally happened that each of the members were in different roles in their organizations. And so they brought different expertise to the meetings that we would talk about. And I remember when I took my test, sort of channeling one of the members of the study group and thinking, ‘What would she do if this question were posed to her?’ And I was able to understand more about how other experiences could help my own education.
Q: What are some of the topic areas when you're meeting with practice leaders that they gravitate to the most or they want to know even more about?
The types of leadership skills we need now have changed, we are now leading hybrid teams, we are leading teams of people who don't have the same level of healthcare experience that we used to have. Oftentimes, (it’s) because we are opening our doors to recruiting people from other industries. …
So the course that I'm working on right now with the team is to teach people how to ground themselves effectively. That whole adage of putting on your oxygen mask first, and then growing others within our practices. I am afraid as I look out on my group of peers who have been doing this a very long time, that when they leave, we are not going to have a group of prepared individuals to step into their shoes. And so one of the things that I'm really focusing on is helping those folks prepare, helping them be more ready than we were, and have more tools than we had to lead these practices effectively.
Q: You also do some work with our furry friends, can you tell us about that?
Yeah, so I am a co-founder, but really the supporting member to my spouse who has created this incredible ministry called Assembly of the Wandering Shepherd
. Her vision is around supporting handlers and animal lovers through the grief process, frequently the training process of their dogs. It's a very unique style of dog training that she does. My role is very supportive. …
Our dog, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, worked with Robin, my spouse, as a therapy team. And I got to be supportive of that. So that means I went into the hospital with them, basically was the one to help encourage caregivers to come and meet them and receive therapy from that team. Even though I wasn't the one that was primarily giving that care or that experience, I was extremely influenced by it and think it's incredible work and want to support it however I can. And I was lucky that we had this connection with the clinics that I work in, in the hospital system that I work in to be able to provide this incredible gift of animal therapy.
Q: We’ve shared a lot about your leadership style and your work-life balance, what else can you share with our listeners that can help them grow as healthcare leaders?
I was just talking with a group of practice administrator friends, and they all agreed that their providers don't really seem to understand what they do, and the value that they provide. I think of some of that responsibility falling on us to share that, and we need to learn to become comfortable with regularly sharing our priorities, our challenges, and our successes with our leaders. And we need to get better at teaching others how to do that. So one of the things I implemented last year is the concept of a "meetless Monday," meaning I don't schedule any meetings, I have dedicated time for my own professional development and focused project work on Mondays.
Just blocking that on the calendar — which can be a little scary when you're self-employed, to say ‘I don't do meetings on Mondays,’ it has paid back in dividends. It has allowed me to grow my own development, to maintain focus on that as a priority. … So even if your organization, or you personally can't have a meetless Monday, find another day or a time that you can and make a date with yourself. You are as much of a priority as any of your direct reports are to you. So put yourself on the calendar and honor that.
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The MGMA Insights podcasts are produced by Daniel Williams, Camille Burch, Rob Ketcham and Decklan McGee.
This episode is brought to you by the Medical Practice Excellence: Financial and Operations Conference 2023. During our premiere spring event, attendees will gain key insights from both disciplines and learn about topics that shape the future success of medical practice organizations. Go to mgma.com/mpe23
to learn more and to register today.