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.