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Hands-on Interaction


Sterling Surgical Hospital Administrator Chris Daniel is eyeing the future of healthcare.


ChrisDanielCEOWhen Chris Daniel hears the title CEO, he thinks of someone behind a desk; living in a big, white house; making decisions behind closed doors.

That’s why he prefers the title Sterling Surgical Administrator.

“‘Administrator’ gives a more hands-on image,” Daniel says. “How many times does the nurse in pre-op or the clerk in registration really interact with the CEO? Here they aren’t afraid to come and sit down with me and talk about challenges and ways to improve life at the hospital. I’m also much more intimately involved in talking with patients and their families than a CEO is, making sure their time with us is going well and that they’re not stressed out about what’s going on.”

Daniel feels that unless you’re having a baby, there aren’t a lot of people who look forward to a hospital stay. There’s risk with the surgery; family members are concerned for their loved one; and there’s a lot of waiting for that loved one to come out from behind those double doors. Which is why he views every person working at Sterling as an essential team member whose priority is to ensure comfort for patients and their families. He therefore makes it his mission to ensure the Sterling team is happy so they in turn make the process more enjoyable for families.

“People don’t necessarily leave a job for a 50 cent an hour raise,” Daniel says. “They leave because they’re unhappy. They don’t get along with the management team. They’re stressed or not given a say. We try to create a culture — a fun, family environment — where everyone loves coming to work.” To that end, the Sterling staff is treated to car washes, chair massages, bonuses throughout the year, meals from a classically trained chef, monthly raffles for house-cleaning service and an inspirational book-of-the-month club.

Those strategies are working. Daniel reports they have extremely low turnover and have never had to use contract labor nurses to fill vacancies. They’ve added a good number of new physicians in the past year who’ve been attracted by the Sterling Surgical concept, and, as a result, their surgery volume has seen a distinctive uptick in the past 10 months. When a patient recommends the hospital to a friend, they can look forward to the very same staff taking good of care of them too. People overflow their survey cards raving about their experience at Sterling.

Another big satisfaction area is the boutique environment at Sterling Surgical, Daniel says. “It feels like you’re walking in to a spa. There are hardwood floors and fine art on the walls.” In addition, he cites top-notch dietary services, hotel-style rooms, a quiet environment — something for all five senses — a relaxed atmosphere ideal for recovery.

It’s not just patients who are noting what’s going on over at Sterling. Daniel was named a CityBusiness Healthcare Hero in May, an annual list of who’s-who in healthcare contributors. While he says it was great to be a part of it, he feels in terms of a hero, there are so many more deserving people. “ … nurses, doctors, frontline paramedics who do more earth-shaking things than I do in managing a checkbook,” he says. People like Dr. Lucius Craig and Dr. Rex Houser, two Paradigm Health System physicians who work at Sterling and also won the Healthcare Heroes designation. “People in healthcare are taking notice of the distinctive quality of care at Paradigm Health System and Sterling Surgical,” he says.

And the system isn’t finished growing. “My future here is to ensure we have the ability to expand the facility and improve healthcare with the latest technology,” Daniel says. “You always have to be nimble and make decisions quickly. You have to adapt to regulatory and reimbursement changes. By having a successful facility and the financial ability to grow the hospital, you can achieve your goals, while addressing the needs of the community.”

Things are running so well that for the first time in his 18-year healthcare finance career, Daniel has time for his two sons’ baseball games and date nights with his wife. “At big-box hospitals, you’re having meetings to talk about the next meeting … coming to a smaller hospital, you can get your arms around the operations of the facility. Of course it all goes back to hiring a good team.”