Ellen Wright

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Ellen Wright

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

For over 30 years Ellen Wright has worked for ARH in a number of nursing positions, from student nurse to ICU staff nurse, Community Chief Nursing Officer and Community CEO at Whitesburg ARH and now System Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Nursing for ARH. According to Ellen, in this position she provides assistance, oversite, development and implementation of all nursing services including policy procedure, education, staffing, implementation of new processes and evaluation of care that is provided. She works with the board of trustees, medical staff and all other departments to help coordinate care across the system.

Ellen boasts an impressive collegiate resume. Soon after graduating from high school she began classes to become an LPN and worked in that position for four years. She then attended Hazard Community and Technical College where she earned her Registered Nursing License. Finally, she earned her Master’s Degree in Nursing and her Family Nurse Practitioner Certification from the University of Kentucky.

“I think my interest in nursing started with my grandmother who lived with us,” Ellen says. “She had a lot of health conditions, so I helped my mother take care of her. Seeing the struggle my mother went through caring for her really motivated and inspired me to want to help others. Having resources and nursing professionals in our community to help care for family is really invaluable.”

As System Chief Nursing Officer, Ellen does not interact with patients in the same capacity she did as a staff nurse. While she loves working with patients to offer the best care possible, she was interested in advancing her career to make a larger impact at ARH. As she advanced to nursing leadership for ARH she had the chance to learn more about the various nursing roles throughout the system, other disciplines, and how they work to improve the quality of care across the continuum.

“My favorite thing about working for ARH is the people I work with,” she says. “They all have such a heart for their family, friends, neighbors and each other. It’s a very caring organization and their mission aligns with my goals, to improve health, making our community a better place.”

Talking to any ARH employee it is clear, this organization loves each other and the community with everything they have. Ellen says ARH employees care for their patients as if they are their own family.

“I respect my coworkers so much because I know when they’re at work they’re there for the patient, regardless of their personal trials,” she says. “They go above and beyond what they’re expected to do. I’ve seen staff take money out of their own pocket to give to a patient’s family, I’ve seen them bring back food when they go out for their lunch break, I’ve even seen staff visit funeral homes because they grew so close to a patient. It’s just part of the culture and the very reason I love them.”

Working in the medical field for over 30 years, Ellen understands the importance of having strong mentors to lean on for guidance and advice. She is proud to say she has had many different mentors throughout her life and has learned something important from each of them.

“Of course I have spiritual leaders, but I also have people who are my cheerleaders, like my mother who always said I could do anything I set my mind to and my father whose work ethic and love for others I admired,” she says. “I had nursing leaders like Geraldine McDonald, who was the epitome of nursing leadership. She always wanted to do what was best for the patient. As a staff nurse I always felt like she supported me and had my back. My goal was always to be a leader like her.”

Ellen is able to maintain a work-life balance thanks to the loving support of her husband Tim, son Taylor and daughter-in-law Kristen, who are also part of the nursing community, and two granddaughters McKenzie and Alivia. Ellen’s free time is spent with her granddaughters, working with her church’s youth ministry, being outdoors and traveling with her husband.

Her career is a prime example of the type of growth and development available in this field. When asked what advice she had to offer to a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field, she had this to say:

“It is absolutely the land of opportunity. There are so many options and there are always jobs available.”

Dr. Maria Braman

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Dr. Maria Braman

The women in leadership at Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

Dr. Maria Braman has had an extensive career in medicine that has led her to become the Chief Medical Officer at ARH. Her mother was a doctor and from a young age Dr. Braman was exposed to the healthcare field, cultivating a passion for serving patients.

She obtained her medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she was able to explore several different medical concentrations before pursuing pathology. She completed her pathology residency at MedStar Washington Hospital Center as well as an additional breast pathology residency at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Braman says she entered the healthcare field during a time when a work-life balance was almost unheard of. While she was most interested in the surgery field, she chose to focus on pathology, allowing her to have a family while still aiding in the process of diagnosis after surgery. Before joining the ARH team, she served as the Vice President of Medical Affairs for St Peter’s Hospital in Helena, MT. Prior to that she was chair of the pathology department and medical director at St. Peter’s Hospital and Mountain West Pathology in Helena, Montana. There she utilized her training in breast pathology to open the first nationally accredited breast program in Montana, something she is still extremely proud of.

“[Creating this breast program] was really driven by a desire to improve the delivery of breast care. It provided me the opportunity to utilize my expertise in breast pathology to improve patient care on a broad scale,” Dr. Braman says. “It was very exciting to me and it opened my eyes to a whole other part of medicine where I didn’t just do direct patient care. This is when I was first bitten by the administrative bug. I was helping people from a broader perspective by developing a whole system involving multiple members of the healthcare team to bring better care to patients.”

In addition to this work, she served as the President and CEO of Braman Labs, LLC, a women’s health molecular diagnostics laboratory. In her current role as Chief Medical Officer, the most senior medical administrative position within ARH, she represents all hospitals across the system. She focuses on integrating medicine and quality of care into management while implementing the strategic vision and goals of the organization.

“When I’m sitting behind the microscope I can only help one patient at a time,” she says. “From an administrative perspective I’m able to help literally thousands of people per day. That’s just where my passion led me, and fortunately the opportunities followed.”

In an effort to advance her already impressive career, Dr. Braman graduated from Notre Dame University in May 2018 with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). She says completing this degree has provided an additional layer of exposure and expertise complimenting her move from practicing medicine to healthcare administration. This new knowledge will allow her to continue to excel at ARH, an organization she has grown passionate about in her time there.

“I really love my job here at ARH because there are so many people every day that we are able to impact, making a difference in the care that they receive,” Dr. Braman says. “There is a lot of opportunity to grow, develop and improve [healthcare] here. I believe that ARH has the opportunity to really make a national name for itself in rural healthcare and stand out as leaders on a national stage. There’s so much richness in our network of 12 hospitals and 80 clinics, we have so many thoughts and ideas and people working together to bring high-level care to the community. I love the opportunity, energy and commitment ARH has to the community and we’re at a point where we are launching. It’s really exciting.”

Her love for ARH runs deeper than her job alone. In mid-2018 her grandmother who lives in Maryland fell ill. Dr. Braman’s family alerted her of the poor care her grandmother was receiving and she had to intervene. She immediately jumped in her car and drove to Maryland where she arranged an ambulance to transport her grandmother to ARH.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the care that she received in our hospital and the genuine love that came from everyone in the community, whether it was the nursing staff, the janitor or the dietary team dropping off food,” Dr. Braman says. “She was so comfortable and felt so safe, a stark difference to the care she was receiving in Maryland. Watching what ARH does for patients be done so beautifully and seeing my grandmother transition from this world to the next peacefully, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

In addition to her grandmother, Dr. Braman’s family is full of incredibly talented women. She says her mother has served as her biggest role model and mentor throughout her life. Her mother came to the United States from Trinidad where she was one of only three women in her medical school class. Now, at the age of 74 Dr. Braman says her mother is traveling the world, living her life to the fullest.

“She has paved her way, she has energy and she loves life at 74,” Dr. Braman says. “She’s a dynamite woman and I’m very proud to be her daughter.”

Dr. Braman and her husband, Benjamin have three beautiful children, one biological daughter, Katie, and two adopted children, Jaylissa and Kanye who are biological brother and sister. Much like herself, her three children have been exposed to the healthcare field from a young age.

Family is extremely important to Dr. Braman, and she has always strived for the work-life balance that Pathology originally promised. Her passion for her work led her to pursue projects like developing the breast program in Montana in her free time; however, she has always taken time for her family and even involved them in her work when possible.

“I realized, if you enjoy what you do, you keep your energy for it. It’s when things are a drag that they’re hard, but when you enjoy what you do and you’re passionate about it it’s not so much about balance as it is about having fun. I love being able to share that with my kids.”

Her career in the medical field has offered many lessons and a vast amount of knowledge that she is excited to share with future healthcare professionals. When asked what advice she has for a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field she had this to say:

“Do what you’re passionate about. Your passion carries you a long way. That’s the difference between being average and being great, do it with passion, don’t be afraid and take risks. Love what you do.”

ARH is lucky and humbled to have such an incredible, accomplished leader paving the way for future healthcare professionals and helping to further advance medicine in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Violet Sylvia

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.


Not many people can say they moved from Eastern Kentucky to join the Navy as a Medical Corpsman jumping from Orlando, to Virginia, Chicago, California, Alaska and back to California to earn their PhD and now work for a hospital system of 12 facilities. Violet Sylvia, System Director of Rehabilitation for ARH, did exactly that. As a teenager, she volunteered as a candy striper at her local hospital where she fostered a love for patient care. Growing up on a farm in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, Violet’s family did not have much money, but she knew she wanted to attend college. In 1975, Violet left Kentucky on a bus for Orlando, Florida where she completed Navy basic training followed by four years of active duty and two years in the reserves.

“During that four years of active duty I had the opportunity as this small town girl from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, to see places like Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and San Diego, California,” Violet says. “I experienced large cities and diversity of people. I guess it was kind of like fate that it happened that way because by the time I started my college education I really knew where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to go about it.”

Violet was able to utilize the GI Bill to complete her education in California where she earned her MBA with an emphasis in healthcare administration from National University and her PhD in business management from California Coast University. She completed her dissertation work in healthcare management and the impact it has on patient outcomes. This combined with practical work experience and her existing passion for patient care led her to pursue a career in rehabilitation services.

“Working in the emergency room led me to rehabilitation,” Violet says. “We would stabilize a patient and save their life after something like a motorcycle accident or traumatic brain injury and off they would go. I always wondered what quality of life they had after their accident. Did they go back to work, were they able to spend time with family, play baseball if that’s what they loved to do? That was the lightbulb that moved me into the rehabilitation unit. I’ve been very fortunate to have chosen a career I love and look forward to doing every day.”

In her current role as System Director of Rehabilitation Services, Violet oversees the service line for physical, occupational, and speech therapy for all 12 ARH facilities. She believes someone in her role needs to have organizational and leadership skills while also being very mission driven. Exercising these skills has afforded Violet 13 years working in the rehabilitation service line for ARH.

“During this last 13 years we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of clinical growth,” she says. “I’ve worked a lot on continuing education bringing in speakers who have provided programs for our rehabilitation staff to obtain certifications and learn new protocols. For me that’s really exciting because it’s a way to give back to those front-line people who are hands on with our patients and provide them with the latest and greatest skills. I’m also proud that we are able to promote from within and watch those qualified candidates grow as leaders. We’re now a preferred provider of rehabilitation services because of our clinical quality and as a result we’ve had clinical and financial success. I’m really proud of my team and the growth we’ve accomplished.”

It is clear that almost everyone who works for ARH has an unconditional love for the organization, their career and the people they work with each day. It’s no wonder why so many of ARH’s women in leadership have been with the organization for 10 plus years, sometimes after returning for a second tenure.

“In my position I have the opportunity to visit every single one of our hospital and clinic locations that make a positive impact on someone’s life through rehabilitation,” she says. “This gives me the opportunity to see our services in action. When I see a patient who wasn’t able to walk and then after rehab services, I watch them walk out of the clinic, or I see a non-verbal child work with our therapists and then they communicate with their family for the first time, that is so impactful. These are reasons why I love working in rehab services.”

When asked what she loved most about her position with ARH, Violet says, “I think my favorite thing about my job is the people I work with. Whether I am working with system leadership or Community CEOs and of course my amazing managers, they all make coming to work a positive experience. I’m blessed to work with people at all levels of our organization who really want to make a positive impact on our patients and the community.”

While Violet is an incredibly hard worker, she says she owes her current success to the support of her mother. Thanks to her mother’s encouragement she was able to enter the military to earn the GI Bill and attend school.

“My mom supported my vision for my future. She always encouraged me, from the time I was a candy striper, to when I graduated high school early, got on a bus and headed for basic training right after my 18th birthday,” Violet says. “She inspired me saying that whatever I set my mind to I could accomplish and I knew she would support me. Looking back now as I’m older and have kids and grandkids, I’m sure it had to be hard for my mother. I think about how it must have felt for her staring at that bus watching my wings spread. She never expressed her worry, she only said to go and do what inspired me and that she supported me.”

Today, Violet looks to her husband and family for support and to keep her grounded. She says her husband’s personality perfectly complements her Type A personality serving as a calming force in her life.

“I have a very supportive and patient husband,” she says. “I’ve been blessed to have someone in my life who challenges me, provides comfort, but also supports my need to create.”

In her free time Violet loves spending time with family and her two rescue

Chihuahuas, Dusty and Haley. She also enjoys reading mystery novels, and volunteering at animal shelters. Giving back to the community of eastern Kentucky is extremely important to her. Outside of her role at ARH, Violet continues to work in the rehabilitation realm. She is the co-founder of Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN), an organization dedicated to improving quality of life for all by advocating for communities impacted by disability.

When asked what advice she has for young women interested in entering the medical field, she had this to say:

“You just have to expect the unexpected,” Violet says. “I think that holds true in professional and personal life. You have to anticipate the unexpected happening and when it does, just go with it. If you understand that things are not always going to happen as you plan, then you treat the unexpected more as a problem to solve than a crisis. That really helps me keep life balanced. Whenever things happen I am ready to address the issue and handle the problem. If you keep that level of calm and treat it as a challenge to overcome rather than a crisis then it takes much less time to resolve.”

Violet has loved her time with ARH and we are equally grateful for her hard work and dedication. Join us in thanking Violet for 13 years of service and congratulating her on retiring on November 30, 2018!

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Dena Sparkman

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

ARH is a very tight-knit community, as are the towns each facility is located in. It is common to hear locals say they were born at an ARH hospital. This connection is part of what fosters the sense of pride and passion each ARH employee has for their work. Dena Sparkman was born at McDowell ARH and grew up in a town called Wheelwright, Kentucky, just 12 miles from the hospital. After spending stints of time in Durham, North Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky, Dena was excited to return home in 1993 to begin her career with the organization where it all began. After almost 25 years, and a variety of leadership roles she currently serves as the Community CEO at Whitesburg ARH.

In this role, Dena is operationally responsible for the hospital and clinical operations on campus. In addition to the hospital, three clinics fall under her jurisdiction: one on the hospital campus, a cardiology clinic located nearby and one in Jenkins, Kentucky.

“I once had a mentor say to me that there is no substitute for brains,” Dena says. “To be a community CEO you have to have a varied background with knowledge about the hospital, community and clinics. You need both people skills and financial skills.”

Dena always planned to enter the healthcare field and originally pursued her undergraduate degree in biology at Alice Lloyd College. She then attended medical technology school at Duke University with plans to work in the lab after graduation. For about six months, Dena worked in the lab ultimately deciding it wasn’t the career for her. Dena continued her education by completing her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration at the University of Kentucky. During the last year of her Master’s program Dena’s instructor passed around a flyer for an Administrative Fellow position with ARH and she jumped at the opportunity to return home.

“I asked her to hand the flyer over to me and I decided that position was mine, I was going home!” Dena says. “My parents and the rest of my family were in Eastern Kentucky and that’s where I wanted to be.”

Dena was hired as Administrative Fellow. In this position Dena learned hospital administration through hands-on experience working for six months in the corporate office and six months out in the field.

“It’s never the same day twice and it’s never a boring day in healthcare,” she says. “There’s always something unexpected and I think one of the reasons I love it is because you get to help people. You make decisions and do things that impact their lives, and that’s powerful. It may not just be patients, it may be employees. It’s always something different and I love that.”

Dena’s passion for healthcare stems from her experience with severe asthma as a young girl. Asthma attacks would send her to the emergency room regularly where she met her special nurse, Shelby Jean Boyd. Her nurse was sure to give her medicine and oxygen and once Dena was feeling better Shelby Jean would pop popcorn and they would spend time talking and catching up.

“I’ll just never forget, when I saw her I knew it was going to be alright if she was there,” Dena says. “It didn’t matter to me which doctor was there, if Shelby Jean was there everything was going to be great. Because of her I tell people, never underestimate the impact you’re going to have on someone because 30 years later I’m still talking about Shelby Jean.”

Today, Dena loves volunteering her time mentoring kids in the community. Together they work on resumes, interview skills and talk through the details of different career paths. Whether they are interested in the healthcare field or something else, she loves giving back to the community in this way.

“There have been a lot of people who have served as mentors in my life,” she says. “I think everyone needs a mentor, someone they can call and bounce ideas off of in a non-punitive way. It’s your one get out of jail free card, someone you are comfortable with that you can sharpen your skills against in a way that is good for both parties.”

Dena loves her job, but also makes time for work-life balance. Outside of her volunteer work, Dena is an avid reader, loves to go to the movies, her son’s marching band events, and spending cozy nights in doing jigsaw puzzles.

“In order to make the work-life balance work, you have to realize that you’re only one person and you can’t do it all,” Dena says.

When asked what advice she has for a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field she had this to say:

“Try it, you might like it. I think more young women should try it and not be intimidated by the environment.”

Whitesburg ARH is lucky to have such a driven, hard-working and well-rounded Community CEO in Dena Sparkman.

Three Ways To Land More Job Interviews

While we all know it takes a lot of work to score an interview, you could be making some mistakes in the application process that is holding you back from moving on to the next step in the process. It’s impossible to please everyone – HR managers included – but there are some simple and easy steps you can take to increase your chances of getting an interview.

Ashley Stahl, Career Coach and Forbes Contributor, sheds some light on these three simple steps and how they’re going to give you an edge over your competition when it comes to landing the big interview. Want to read what she has to say? Keep reading!

So… How Can I Land More Job Interviews?

As a coach to job seekers and budding entrepreneurs, there’s one thing I find true across all career paths: networking is king. Why is networking so important, you ask? One survey, for example, found that 85% of critical jobs are filled through networking. Another touts that 70% to 80% of new jobs are not even listed, meaning that networking is the only way to find these positions.

For some, however, the skill of networking is easier said than done, especially if you are introverted or would describe yourself as shy. Whether you’re on the hunt for a new position, or looking to land your first clients, if you’re not networking, you’re missing opportunities. Here are three networking tips that will get you out of your chair and into the mix!

1. Reach out to those similar to your level. 

While it’s tempting to look upward for a bigger and better opportunity, sometimes it is most beneficial to talk to those near your same level. That way, when it’s time for a job recommendation or a performance evaluation, you can be on the forefront of your potential boss or co-worker’s mind and have a realistic shot at getting that promotion.

 2. Talk about your “transition” versus your “job hunt.”

It’s always important to walk to the fine line between being aggressive and being mindful. Remember to emphasize your desire to grow rather than your dissatisfaction about your current position. This also gives you the opportunity to really know the other person you are talking with, as you can both discuss your goals, desires, and progress in your personal growth, rather than dwelling on the past and griping about your current situation.

3. Get inspired.

Whenever I reach a lull, I can typically depend on a solid Ted Talk to stay motivated. If you’re new to Ted Talks, here are some of my favorite talks geared toward communication skills.

While seeing all these tips and recommendations at once may seem overwhelming, don’t let the influx of information get to you. As a career coach, I often remind people that it’s all about taking one small step at a time… and in doing that, just think of it as talking to one more person at the next social event. Soon, you’ll realize that the doors weren’t necessarily closed for you as much as you may have been mentally blocking yourself from opening them.

To read the full blog on Forbes.com, follow the link: https://bit.ly/2SgDO4n

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Sonya Bergman

The women in leadership for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare system are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.

Sonya Bergman has over 30 years of human resources experience. Currently serving as the System Director of Human Resources, Sonya has worked in the ARH HR department for 20 years. She always knew she wanted to impact others through her career. She considered nursing, but ultimately felt she was more business minded than clinically minded. Working in healthcare HR provided the best of both worlds, allowing her to make an impact through the administrative side of a hospital.

“Working in HR for the healthcare field is different than working say in a vehicle manufacturing plant,” Sonya says. “In HR we work with a lot of different people, and I think that’s what has always made it interesting to me. I’m not just coming in and giving someone a job, I’m making their career dreams come true. I’ve always been drawn to helping people and I think healthcare workers are different. It takes a special kind of person.”

Like many other ARH employees, Sonya has a personal connection to the organization. Her friends and family have received care through ARH and she takes pride in the trust and love she has for her co-workers.

“I’ve been here 20 years and I feel like it’s been a major milestone for my career,” Sonya says. “My theory is this: If I can lay my head down at night knowing I’ve done the best I can do then I feel like I’ve contributed somehow, some way.”

It’s no secret that ARH employees love their jobs and co-workers. Sonya recalled an instance a few years ago when ARH expertly maneuvered a computer system failure, beaming with pride for ARH and the incredible people she works with.

“Our HR departments across the whole system and several other departments came together and manually entered payroll for 5,000 people,” Sonya says. “Everyone was working together whether it was going to Lexington or working 18 hours a day, you could see the commitment in their faces. That’s what ARH is, we’re family and we care about each other.”

The stakes were high, but the experience created an even more tightknit ARH community.

Sonya’s biggest life mentors are her parents. As an only child, they formed a strong bond teaching her the importance of hard work not just in her job, but in her relationships, as well. Their family motto was to love life and remember that God is in control of all situations. She has passed on this advice to her daughter, Ashley, who is currently enrolled at the University of Kentucky where she is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering.

“That’s gratifying to me because she’s been exposed to the healthcare field and I think she knows that it’s a rewarding field to work in,” Sonya says. “I tell her, whether you’re a doctor, a nurse or an HR director, you have to do what inspires you. We just tell her to be compassionate, make time for God, family, your friends and be yourself. We make this joke saying, ‘put your work clothes on, dig in and go get it’ meaning show up prepared and always do your best.”

In her free time Sonya loves spending time with family and friends. Her family is famous for the Christmas party they host each year complete with a video invitation, over the top costumes, and great food. Aside from this annual event, Sonya runs every day, attends church regularly, and enjoys weekends at the lake.

“My mother always said, ‘Everything you do makes some kind of statement.’ Whether that be how you dress or how you answer the phone, but everything you do makes a statement,” Sonya says. “You still have to find a balance. I believe you show up for everything you do, [not just physically, but mentally] but you also have to find that balance and leave work at work.”

Sonya is a true example of the passion and dedication each and every ARH employee puts into their job. When asked what advice she had to offer to a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field, she had this to say:

“Go for it. I think you need to be confident and wear your passion right on your face. Be energetic, healthcare is a tough field to work in and no matter what role we play, we’ve got to show our confidence and passion. It’s important for young women to always ask for what they want. The worst answer they can get is no. Be bold and go for it! I love what I do. Truly, I’ll tell anybody that. You have to find something in your career that you are passionate about and that you love. If you don’t, then you need to find a new path because it’s not fair to you or the people you work for.”

ARH Women in Leadership Series: Susan Stewart

The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. In addition to sharing these common characteristics, each is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when she walks through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of remarkable.

Susan Stewart, System Director of Home Services leads all efforts comprising the home services umbrella, which includes 10 home health agencies and 11 homecare stores.

“My team isn’t down the hallway from me every day,” Susan says. “Listening and recognizing that sometimes you need to be a leader and sometimes you need to be a teammate are very important.”

Before Susan joined ARH, during her first year after college, she utilized her accounting degree preparing taxes, and the following seven years she worked for a locally owned telephone company. Knowing the two major employers in the area are ARH and the school system, Susan took a leap of faith and began applying for jobs with ARH.

“It took me several months of applying for positions at ARH before I was hired. I just kept trying because I knew if I could get my foot in the door, I could find a path,” Susan says. “I didn’t pick homecare; homecare picked me.”

Twenty years later, Susan still believes applying to ARH was one of the best decisions she ever made. Today, Susan is responsible for more than 200 home care employees, and she says her favorite thing about her job is the people she works with every day and knowing we make a difference in the lives of our patients.

“Another important reward of my job is knowing that our team has the unique opportunity to provide important services to patients in their home environment with their family by their side,” Susan says.

Working in healthcare for 20 years, Susan has experienced many unusual situations.  One particular story of impact has stuck with her. On Friday, March 2, 2012, a tornado hit West Liberty in Morgan County, one of the 12 ARH communities. The home health agency and homecare store were destroyed.

“Our property may have been destroyed, but my team was intact,” Susan says. We were able to assemble everyone in another ARH community and recreate all the records. By Sunday afternoon, we had them back up and running, knowing exactly what they needed to do for every patient. We didn’t miss a beat; every patient was seen. This is a benefit of being part of the ARH system; everyone helps one another.”

Susan’s perseverance is a direct reflection of the advice her mother, and most pivotal role model, instilled in her from a young age.

“I was the youngest of three with two older brothers,” Susan says. “Being the only girl made me a bit spoiled, but my brothers didn’t cut me any slack. I had to learn to hold my own, fight for what I wanted, and not let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something. My mom taught me that anything worth having isn’t easy; and if I was willing to invest the time and effort, I could be anything I wanted to be.”

This advice created a strong drive and determination in Susan throughout her career. Susan passed these words of encouragement on to her daughter, Taylor, who recently graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a degree in education.

“I told her, ‘You’ve been placed there for a reason. Embrace it,” Susan says. “If you can’t be anything else, be kind because you have no idea what those kids are going through outside the walls of the classroom.”

While Susan is not one to take the easy way out, she has learned throughout the years the importance of taking a break. She loves going to sporting events, (especially University of Kentucky football games) and jamming out to Garth Brooks, whom she has seen in concert at least nine times.

“I try to recognize when I need a break and then take it. Healthcare is very fast paced. I am blessed because I have a great team which gives me peace of mind when I’m away.”

When asked what advice she had to offer a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field, Susan had this to say:

“Work smarter, not necessarily harder. Knowledge is power. Find what you’re passionate about and learn everything you can about it. I tell my team, ‘You can do it the long way the first time, the second time it’ll get easier, but by the third time you should have it down pat!’ That’s what I mean by work smarter. It’s not always necessarily about 80 hours per week. It’s about what you can get done and the quality of work you produce.”

ARH is proud to have such a dedicated, hardworking employee as Susan Stewart who keeps Home Services running smoothly in order to meet the needs of the many people we serve.  Stay tuned for more stories of the remarkable women in leadership at ARH.

Union College partners with Appalachian Regional Healthcare

Published onNovember 06, 2018

Union College is pleased to announce the recent corporate partnership between the Division of Online and Graduate Studies and Appalachian Regional Healthcare.

Through the Corporate Partner Program, Union College will become a preferred education partner for Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) employees. In return, ARH employees will receive a tuition discount on courses and programs offered by the Union College Division of Online and Graduate Studies.

ARH is a not-for-profit health system serving 350,000 residents across Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia. With more than 5,000 employees and a network of more than 600 active medical staff members, ARH is the largest provider of care and single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third-largest private employer in southern West Virginia. ARH operates hospitals in Barbourville, Harlan, Hazard, Hyden, Martin, McDowell, Middlesboro, West Liberty, South Williamson and Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Beckley and Hinton, West Virginia.

“This is an exciting partnership for Union College as we strive to provide quality education to those in our region,” said Dr. David Williams, Dean of Online and Graduate Studies at Union College. “Union offers a variety of graduate programs, but our new Master of Science in Healthcare Administration (MHCA) program should prove especially beneficial to ARH employees.”

Designed to target the needs of healthcare professionals entering or planning to enter the field of healthcare administration, the MHCA follows courses ranging from Evidence-based Healthcare and Informatics to Ethics and Social Responsibility.

All of Union College’s online programs are offered in convenient 8-week courses with multiple admission dates throughout the year. Union College’s 10-course MHCA, MBA, MS in Administration, and MS in Athletic Administration programs can be completed in 5 terms. Union College offers fully-online undergraduate programs in Business, Management, Law Enforcement, and Substance Abuse Counseling.

For more information about Union College, visit www.unionky.edu/online

Original post can be found at https://www.unionky.edu/news/union-college-partners-appalachian-regional-healthcare

Five Steps To Successfully Navigate Conflict At Work

While conflict is at times unavoidable, the way you handle conflicts in the workplace can make or break your professional future. Handling conflict poorly can cost you your reputation or even your job, but handling it well can increase your coworkers’ trust in you and could open up future career opportunities.

Forbes Contributor and Managing Partner for Exec|Comm Jay Sullivan offers 5 steps to not only help you successfully navigate conflict in the workplace, but how to use your behaviors to further your career. See below to read what steps we should all be taking when faced with a workplace conflict.

1. Pick your battles.

As a baseline, decide if you’re part of a particular conflict. If you’re not, stay out of the way. You may view your personal brand as “peacemaker” and feel a strong impulse to weigh in on challenging situations. You may quickly discover your brand is actually “buttinsky” and may create even more tension.

Assuming you have a role in resolving the conflict, decide on timing and approach. Has the conflict risen to the level that you need to get involved? Some challenges between two people who report to you need to be worked out by those individuals. If those people resolve the challenge on their own, they’ve grown from the experience. Your involvement would have kept them dependent on you for solutions. Deciding not to take action is sometimes a valid decision, since some problems can be resolved without you.

2. Avoid making assumptions.

There’s a basic principle about faulty decision-making called “What you see is all there is.” Our natural instinct is to assume what we have in front of us is everything, and to trust whoever is presenting the information. Assume instead that every picture you are looking at is a jigsaw puzzle and that a few dozen pieces are missing. Even though you can tell it’s a picture of a lake in the mountains, you should recognize that you’re missing enough pieces that there is important information you can’t determine yet. Is there a cabin on the shore? A moose coming through the trees? When someone presents you with a conflict he has with a co-worker, or you have your own disagreement with a colleague, start by asking a few basic questions.

What else is important for me to know?

This first question helps you uncover information. It shows interest on your part and creates the expectation on the part of the other person that you are going to investigate the issue, starting immediately. It also positions you as thoughtful and reflective, rather than impulsive and reactive. That’s an impressive sign of growth to those around you.

If the other person were here, what would he be telling me?

If you’re a manager asking this question of someone who is in your presence raising an issue, your response forces your colleague to articulate the other person’s position. We all appreciate that there are two or more sides to every story. However, when we articulate those alternative arguments ourselves, we become more sympathetic to the other person’s perspective, which often starts to take the edge off the conflict.

If you are a party to the conflict, before speaking with a manager, ask yourself, “What don’t I know about the person’s motivation, intention, reasoning and feelings about the topic at hand?” Then, go to the other person and ask the appropriate questions. Doing so shows that you are working very diligently to understand the other person in the conversation, and goes a long way to build trust.

What are you asking me to do?

Depending on your management style, you might assume when someone comes to you with an issue that they want you to dive in and solve the problem. Sometimes they do. Ask this third question to reinforce that you won’t be making any sudden judgements and will be reasoned in your approach.

If they respond by saying, “I just need guidance” or “I just needed a sounding board,” you’ve avoided spending time jumping in when your participation wasn’t welcome.

What if you’re the more junior person in the discussion? It’s not politically palatable or comfortable for you to say, “I need you to act differently toward me.” Instead, phrase your request from the perspective of how it will help the other person. “I want to make sure I’m doing a good job for you. I’ll be better able to do that if we can take more time when you are giving me direction.” By framing your request as a means to an end that serves the other person, you’re more likely to state your position calmly and professionally, and are more likely to be heard by the other person.

Each of these questions should be asked with a completely neutral tone, not one that shows exasperation or frustration. Asking these questions will not only help you understand the other person’s perspective, but will help you develop better leadership traits.

3. Investigate.

If there is an independent source of information available that gives color to the conflict, access it before you speak to the other party involved. You may then have other questions for the person who came to you or with whom you have a conflict. The answers to those questions will help you understand their perspective.

4. Listen to the other side.

If you are a manager, let’s assume the person coming to you with a problem wants you to take an active role in fixing it. Contact the other person involved and ask to meet with them. Tell them the agenda so that they aren’t blindsided when they meet with you. If possible, meet with the person face-to-face. Start with a pleasant tone and ask a few straightforward questions that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, possibly commenting on something else with which the person is involved. A simple, “How is your day going?” or “How are things coming along on the X project?” emphasizes that the challenge you two are about to discuss is only one element in the person’s larger workday. It keeps the immediate challenge in perspective. Ending the conversation the same way, by commenting on another aspect of work, reinforces that message.

Fairly quickly, however, you should get to the point of the meeting. “Jack shared with me that an issue arose regarding Z. What’s your take on the situation?” Be prepared to ask lots of questions. Don’t rush the conversation, which means you have to set aside ample time for the meeting. Again, you’ll maintain a neutral demeanor and not telegraph from your facial expressions or tone of voice that you are siding with one party or the other.

If you are a party to the conflict and you’re ready to address this issue with someone else, the same technique works. Starting with a more innocuous topic emphasizes that your relationship with this person isn’t all tension.

5. Decide on next steps.

This is where it gets tricky. Determine if this is the type of issue that requires all parties to sit down and hash out the problem. Most of the time, getting everyone in the room together is the best course of action, as it forces open discussion.

If that meeting takes place, you again need to decide on your role: Are you moderating a discussion, mediating a dispute or ultimately making a decision? If you are moderating, your job is to keep the conversation open, focused and civil. If you are mediating, the parties involved will ultimately decide how they move forward on a project. If you are making the decision, depending on the complexity of the issue, either tell them your decision right then, or tell them you need some time to reflect on it or do some research. If you delay the decision, don’t delay long. They need to move things forward.

Obviously, there are lots of intricacies in dealing with conflict. I haven’t even commented on dealing with the emotional dimension of how people process ideas and information when they are facing a challenge. These are just some first steps to consider when having those tough conversations.

To read the full blog on Forbes.com, follow the link: https://bit.ly/2DYK5yf

The Number One Interview Mistake To Avoid

Let’s face it – there are a ton of ways you can mess up an interview. The job search is already a stressful process, but being aware of crucial mistakes you could make during the interview process can help alleviate some of that stress by showing up prepared. Knowing what not to do can sometimes be just as important at knowing the right things to do, and interviews directly apply to that example. Remy Blumenfield, Forbes contributor and creativity coach, singled out the number one mistake to avoid during your next job interview and it might surprise you.

What’s the Number One Interview Mistake to Avoid?

The last time you had a big interview, did it feel as if you were being measured and assessed? Did you wonder whether you’d left your prospective employer with a strong enough sense of how experienced, capable and engaging you came across in your answers?

I often get asked to coach people for big, life-changing interviews and I thought I’d share the number one mistake candidates make, as well as what you can do to transform the experience to your advantage.

Instead of obsessing about what the interviewer will think of you, shift the spotlight away from your own neuroses onto how the person you’re talking to feels about themselves while you are in the room.

Shine The Spotlight On Your Host

On chat-show interviews with celebrities or news-makers, it’s all about the answers. It’s all about the star on the couch. No one cares much about the interviewer.  If you are a star-creative, star-performer, CEO, artist or other best-in-class rain-maker, go ahead and ignore the interviewer and continue to make every interview all about you. If you are the one and only candidate, the interviewer will be 100% focused on luring you. That you may appear to be an egomaniac will probably not lose you the gig. Most likely, it’s what they expect, from a star.

For everyone else: You are not being interviewed for a role as a star performer. You are being interviewed as a future member of a team. Far from being more important (or more interesting) than the person interviewing you, chances are, if you are successful you will end up working alongside them or more likely reporting to them.

Of course you need to show that you’re the best candidate, but if you’ve been selected for an interview, they already believe you’re capable. They know you have the right skills and abilities. They’ve gone through your CV. They know your experience.  You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have a good sense that you could probably do the job.  No, they’re interviewing you to see if you’re a good fit for the team; to get a taste of what it might be like to actually have you in their face every day.

This is the number one mistake I see people making in important interviews: They make it all about them.

They talk way too much. They assume that the person interviewing them wants to hire someone who is brilliantly successful, accomplished and confident. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The person interviewing you does not want to hire an egomaniac who sucks the oxygen from the room with a non-stop narcissistic rant. They want to hire someone who makes them, the boss or the rest of the team feel brilliantly successful accomplished and supported every single day. If you can’t even manage to make them feel this for half an hour, you haven’t got a chance.

So, instead of obsessing about what the interviewer will think of you, shift the spotlight away from your own neuroses onto how the person you’re talking to feels about themselves while you are with them.

We all like to be around people who give us space to shine. If the person interviewing you feels perceptibly smarter, more accomplished and dynamic when you are with them there is a strong chance that this is an experience they will be keen to repeat. In all likelihood, they won’t want you out of their sight for long.


If you can, research the person who will be interviewing you as though they, not you, was the star guest and you are interviewing them. You want to astound them with how much you know about every aspect of their professional life.   If you can’t research your interviewer, forensically study the company’s founders or CEO. Stun your interviewer by how well you know the company.

Ask Well Considered Questions

Prepare at least three  questions that demonstrate your understanding of who the interviewer is (their role and responsibilities) and allow them to shine as an expert about their company. Never ask a question to which you and the interviewer do not already know the answer.

Switch The Tables

Instead of trying to show how well suited you are to working for the company (an approach which could leave you seeming egocentric)  show how all the research you have done makes you uniquely appreciate what an honor it would be for you to build your career with them.  Remember, you are looking to join an existing team, not have them want to join you!

Mirror The Interviewer’s Body Language and Listen

Your job in the interview is to appreciate uniquely.  Ultimately, it’s not about them thinking you are a star, or even an expert. It’s about them feeling stronger, better and more valued when YOU are in their company.

To read the full blog on Forbes.com, follow the link: https://bit.ly/2O7juQa