An Appointment With: Kelly Cifu, MSN, RN and VP of System Perioperative Services
When it comes to PeriOperative careers at Northwell Health, there’s an environment for everyone! With 23 hospitals and more than 665 outpatient practices, nurses have the flexibility to choose the right shift and specialty opportunity. Just ask Kelly Cifu, MSN, RN and VP of System PeriOperative Services. As a nurse for more than 20 years, Kelly grew her career with Northwell to her current position where she oversees 18 periOperative sites. We sat down with Kelly to discuss her history as a nurse with Northwell, the innovative technologies changing perioperative services, and the different career opportunities that are available for nurses looking to grow their career in perioperative nursing.
Why did you come to Northwell and what is your role today?
I started my nursing career at Franklin Hospital which is now known as Long Island Jewish at Valley Stream in 1987. I grew up in Franklin Square and knew that I wanted to work someplace close to home. For the first year of my career, I worked on a Medical/Surgical floor where I took care of many postsurgical patients. At the time this was a requirement for all new staff nurses that were hired. In nursing school, I had decided that I would really enjoy working in the operating room.
After my year of Med/Surg experience, I requested a transfer into the OR. I worked as a staff nurse for about six years and then was promoted to the Director of PeriOperative Services. I later moved to CFAM Ambulatory Surgery as Senior Administrative Director and then to Regional Director of Northwell’s PeriOperative Services. Next, I was promoted to the Associate Executive Director at North Shore University Hospital and then to VP of System PeriOperative Services. In my current role, I have oversight of 18 periOperative sites.
How is Northwell’s PeriOperative Services redefining health care with truly innovative technology?
The pace of medical and surgical innovation continues to increase. A wide range of new technologies are changing the way that surgeries are performed – while improving patient safety and outcomes and reducing health care costs in the process. Northwell works to be at the forefront of innovative health care as the deployment of new technologies in surgery creates many opportunities to provide our patients with better outcomes and a faster return to their everyday lives.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into perioperative nursing?
Candidates interested in periOperative nursing must be energetic, have good people skills and a great attitude. PeriOperative nurses love the fast-paced environment and the fact that no two days are the same. In one shift, you have multiple patients facing different surgeries. Nurses also enjoy the environment because it’s a specialty area in which they typically become close with their team members and enjoy the camaraderie.
PeriOperative careers offer a great deal of flexibility. There are many different shifts that are offered to fit anyone’s schedule and there are opportunities in a variety of periOperative settings such as the main hospital, an ambulatory surgery center or even a surgeon’s office. Northwell Health has 18 main surgical sites giving nurses a variety of opportunities to choose from. There are also a multitude of opportunities for growth in this specialty area. Nurses can choose to pursue leadership or educational roles within perioperative services. Career progression/certification is encouraged and supported at every level in periOperative services.
How is Northwell committed to keeping our employees engaged?
Northwell Health System has made employee engagement a top priority. The system continuously strives to improve employee satisfaction and workplace commitment. To accomplish this the leaders at Northwell clearly define and articulate our mission and vision, communicate effectively and often, coach employees for success, and strive to provide the most trusting and respectful work environment for all employees. Along with ongoing dialogue with our employees regarding Northwell’s achievements and opportunities, perioperative services holds an annual retreat specifically for our surgical services leaders and staff.
The periOperative leaders at Northwell are committed to continual improvement, teamwork, achievement, and obtaining the best results possible for our patients.
Northwell recently became the first health system to receive the Network of Excellence in Robotic Surgery designation from Surgical Review Corporation. Can you tell us more about Northwell’s robotic surgery technology?
Since it first started to gain traction about 15 years ago, robotic surgery has become increasingly common for many different types of surgical procedures, and is rapidly expanding in cardiac, GYN, ENT, thoracic, and neurosurgery, to name a few specialties. At Northwell, there’s a continuous movement to be truly innovative, adopting the latest technology to ensure the best care for our patients. Robotic surgery has results in greater precision while also providing enhanced visualization via video images. Providing our highly skilled surgeons with robotic surgery technology results in improved outcomes with faster recovery times.
Northwell’s surgical services has grown tremendously over the past few years. How are we continuing to grow in the future?
Northwell’s periOperative services is growing fast and we continue to enhance our extensive capabilities. We strive to continue to build top-notch interdisciplinary surgical teams and professionals. Northwell continues to add operating rooms with hybrid technology and constantly invests in state-of-the art technology. We have added kidney and liver transplant to those services provided and opened a world-class heart transplant center in 2018.
An Appointment With: Thomas Thornton SVP and Executive Director, Northwell Ventures
When someone thinks of Northwell Health, one of the first words that comes to mind is innovation. Northwell Ventures, a for-profit department focusing on new corporate ventures, is a big driver of the new technology and services that help maintain that reputation. Whether it’s a curtain that helps stop the spread of infection efficiently or UV light technology that helps disinfect hospitals, Northwell Ventures is at the forefront of progressive transformation in the industry. As SVP and executive director of Northwell Ventures, Tom Thornton is responsible for identifying and fostering these innovative ideas that enhance the growth of the health system’s clinical and nonclinical enterprises. We sat down with Tom to discuss the latest in Northwell Ventures.
What’s the mission and vision for Northwell Ventures and how has this department grown over the past few years?
Northwell Ventures was launched four years ago in an effort to advance medical technology by investing in innovative ideas and services across healthcare. Our mission is to generate attractive returns, build profitable companies that drive quality health outcomes, increase operating efficiency, lower the overall costs of healthcare, and improve the patient experience.
It’s an exciting time for Ventures as so much in health care is changing to engage patients and improve patient experience with digital tools. As the department grows, it’s helping improve efficiency, care, and patient engagement through health care business services. Recently, we’ve begun commercializing these services and products to improve quality of care not only within Northwell but across the nation.
What are some upcoming technologies or areas that you are looking at that you believe are truly transformative?
There are many areas that are seeing transformation as technology advances. Some of these key areas are virtual care, wearables, healthcare business services, AI, healthcare information technology, and clinical trials. Innovation in these area are helping to improve health care with world-class products and capabilities. And patients are seeing the outcome from healthcare IT creating applications that allow them to easily access efficient scheduling systems from home, to virtual care giving them access to top physicians across the system.
How do you work with Northwell physicians and administrators to redefine patient care?
At Northwell we know that our employees are our most valuable resource to help solve the challenging problems in health care. This year we hosted our 2ndannualNorthwell Health Innovation Challengewhere employees can pitch new technologies to a panel, ”shark tank” style. The winning teams are awarded up to $500,000 in funding from Northwell Ventures to help turn these ideas into reality as they continue to help Northwell keep our reputation as one of the most innovative health system in the country.
Additionally, we know that our staff is our best asset in terms of deciding which investments are right for Northwell. We meet directly with clinicians and staff to help decide where to invest and test new innovations for improvement and efficiency. And innovation is in every corner of our health system – one of our environmental services supervisors helped develop anew curtain that helps reduce the spread of infection. This curtain is now being used in hospitals across the country.
Can you highlight a recent success story with one of your portfolio companies or partnerships?
Our first investmentAviziais the perfect example of a success story with Ventures. Avizia allows healthcare organizations to have access to system-wide telehealth efficiently and cost-effectively. Northwell used our own telehealth team and physicians to test and perfect this system throughout our investment.
Can you speak to any non-traditional partnerships or strategic relationships that have developed and why?
First and foremost, we provide care. The exciting part about being with Northwell is that the definition of care is ever-changing. We’re continually redeveloping health care by partnering with entrepreneurs, investors and now entire countries. Through Ventures we have created partnerships with international governments to help improve quality of care outside of the United States. Our perpetual need to empower the best and the brightest has allowed us to develop products and services that further enhance care and patient experience on a global scale.
Do you have any fun summer plans?
I would love to wake my wife and kids to the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater to see some concerts. I’m also a big sailor and am excited to spend some time out on the water.
An Appointment With: Jonathan Sobel, Senior Administrative Director for PA Services
Physician Assistants (PAs) are playing a larger role in defining and delivering outstanding patient care., and Northwell Health is helping to drive some of these changes. At Northwell, advanced clinical providers (ACPs) are greatly valued and given a tremendous amount of autonomy, support and professional respect. Whether PAs are assisting complex hand surgeries on professional athletes or working on cutting-edge bypass procedures to restore cerebral blood flow, their expertise and insight are highly sought after. As a leader within Northwell as well as the overall PA community, Jonathan Sobel is playing a leading role in these exciting developments. He is not only the Senior Administrative Director for PA Services, he is also President Elect at the American Academy of PAs. Get to know Jonathan.
Tell us about your career at Northwell Health.
After graduation, I joined Cohen Children’s Medical Center, caring for pediatric open-heart surgery patients alongside a world-class team of surgeons, cardiologists, and nurses. I then joined the CT Surgery team at LIJ Medical Center and later became the Supervising PA, leading innovations in care, quality improvement, and patient experience. I received leadership training and resources at Northwell’s Center for Learning and Innovation and went on to complete my MBA through the Northwell-Hofstra University partnership. Thanks to Northwell Health, my career has continued to progress. I am currently the Senior Administrative Director for PA Services for our Manhattan campuses.
How are PAs being innovatively utilized at Northwell Health?
At Northwell, we realize the tremendous role that PAs bring to the changing healthcare landscape as we move toward value-based care. We’re integrating PAs into roles where they can increase access to quality, cost-effective care in a highly autonomous way. Our PAs serve in every clinical area and medical specialty. They are a big part of our new cardiac transplant team at North Shore University Hospital and are key members of the robotic surgery program. As we increase our focus on our outpatient facilities, our PAs are right there to be an integral part of caring for these patients and in responding to gaps in the healthcare workforce.
Why is being a PA at Northwell unique?
We recognize the value that PAs bring to the new arena of health care. Our supportive environment includes a dedicated PA Leadership structure with direct linkage to medical leadership. Our PAs participate on medical staff committees and are actively involved in quality improvement initiatives. Their clinical expertise and leadership are highly sought after, creating pathways for advancement into senior leadership. Our neurosurgery PAs are learning cutting-edge bypass procedures to restore cerebral blood flow. In orthopedics, they’re reducing fractures and dislocations in the ED and assisting complex hand surgeries on professional athletes. Our Urology PAs are helping with robotic prostatectomies. PAs in our Vascular Birthmark Institute provide total care for these complex cases.
How does being President-Elect of the AAPA help you shape patient care at Northwell?
I’m involved in national conferences focused on advancing the PA profession, the scope of practice, reimbursement, and much more. I’m helping define where health care and the PA practice is heading in the next five to ten years. I can then apply these strategies to our PA practice here at Northwell.
What career paths are available to a PA at Northwell Health?
There’s no limit to what a PA can do here. They can advance their clinical career from PA to Senior PA and Supervising PA. A Senior PA mentors new PAs and students, participates in quality improvement and helps develop educational programs. A Supervising PA takes on the role of team leader, managing administrative functions. There are opportunities to become an educator, with roles for PA Fellowship Directors and Coordinators. We have PAs who run service lines, hospitals and clinics, PAs working in clinical informatics, and serving on our Joint Ventures team. Our Chief People (HR) Officer is a PA!
What training and development opportunities are available to PAs?
Our orientation programs are robust, tailored to individual PA needs and include the use of state-of-the-art simulators. For ongoing education, our academic medical centers offer directed didactic and clinical skills training. PAs can enhance their surgical skills at our Bioskills lab, or on simulators at our Patient Safety Institute. We also have a vast catalog of courses available both online and in person through The Center for Learning and Innovation. We encourage our PAs to attend national meetings and participate in the governance of their PA societies. Through our partnership with Hofstra, we offer generous support toward advanced academic degrees.
Think you’re Made for this challenge, advancement, and enrichment Jonathan is talking about? Start here.
Photo: Mary Comerford-Hewitt, pictured right, with colleagues.
An Appointment With: Mary Comerford-Hewitt, VP, Human Capital Business and Program Development
Written by: Amelia Zito
At Northwell Health, we’re proud of the vast knowledge, skills and insight our people bring to our team. People like Mary Comerford-Hewitt. As our Vice President for Human Capital Business and Program Development, Mary is just one of our innovative people driving our change and success!
Throughout her career, Mary has never been satisfied with the status quo. She has consistently been a pioneer in the healthcare field, always seeking new opportunities and bringing new approaches to improving the health of the community – one person at a time. Mary is an amazing example of how careers at Northwell Health have endless roadmaps, and all along the way, she has helped those around her learn, grow and advance in their careers as well. Meet Mary and gain valuable insight you can use in your career!
Why did you come to Northwell Health and what is your role today?
When I first heard of Northwell Health in 2011, I had no idea of the size and scope of the health system. Once I investigated the opportunity, I saw all the good work being done as well as how innovation was part of its core. These both spoke to who I am as a nurse and an entrepreneur. That was five years ago. Where has the time gone!
Today, I am the VP of Human Capital Programs and Business Development. When I first came here, I led the Talent Acquisition team. I helped re-engineer this very busy department, responsible for over 10,000 hires per year, and helped create the Workforce Readiness Department. I also pioneered the creation of FlexStaff. Today, my role is focused on creating pipelines, internships, career ladders, school programs, diversity with our Workforce Readiness team and the development of new programs and businesses that will benefit both the community and the health system.
What is FlexStaff all about?
FlexStaff, which just celebrated its 3rd birthday, was created to help meet the temporary staffing needs of health systems. As a stand-alone company, FlexStaff has partnered with Northwell to help meet their contingent staffing needs. Additionally, we deliver our contingent staff to other healthcare organizations. As millennials enter the workforce and baby boomers work less, a flexible working arrangement becomes vital to an organization. FlexStaff is the connection they need to make that happen, and we’re looking forward to sharing their brand new website in the coming weeks!
How are you leading change in health care?
One area that I am focused on is neurodiversity. We created the first ever Bridges internship in partnership with Adelphi and helped give five students on the spectrum an internship last summer. I am happy to report we hired two of those interns! Another area that we are focused on is creating career ladders for students who are looking to enter the health system in an entry-level position, but are focused on career growth. For example, we may hire an individual as a medical assistant and they can have a career path to RN or NP through Northwell Health’s opportunity for tuition reimbursement and commitment to continuing education.
Another area that we are leading the way in is as co stewards of the Long Island STEM Hub. We are partnering with schools and industry and challenging them to look at talent differently. Because of our STEM partnerships and awareness efforts, Northwell is an approved STEMJOBS employer.
What makes someone Made for this™ at Northwell Health?
They must realize that Northwell isn’t a normal 9-5 and they must be flexible. They should also live by our new refreshed values – Truly Compassionate, Truly Ambitious, Truly Together, Truly Ourselves and Truly Innovative. Michael Dowling, Northwell’s President and CEO, has told us that we are transitioning health care – it’s up to us to define the future. If you’re someone who wants to help us do that – you’re Made for this!
What makes a great Northwell Health leader?
Someone who is engaged, passionate, loves to learn and can see the big picture. Health care is moving fast. You need to embrace change, be a good communicator, be humble and kind. You need to invest time in learning about the company – and this is a big company. I’ve been here nearly five years and I still learn something new every week. The ability to create followership is key. It enables everyone to blaze new trails together.
If you’d like to make an impact on the future of health care as Mary has, you’re Made for a career at Northwell Health.
An Appointment With: Northwell Health President and CEO, Michael J. Dowling
1. Growth has been a big part of Northwell Health’s success over the past years. How do we plan to continue to grow in 2018?
Everybody wants a piece of the health care space, from Google and Amazon to IBM Watson and other tech companies looking to disrupt the status quo. More recent examples include the purchase by Optum of the DaVita Medical Group, and CVS’ proposed acquisition of Aetna.
As New York’s largest health care provider, we’re not going to stand still. There are ongoing opportunities for Northwell to pursue new, innovative partnerships. Most of the traditional consumer transaction companies trying to gain a foothold in our industry are not providers of care, so they will need to be connected to hospitals and health systems that are firmly established in major metropolitan areas. Their goal, like ours, is to improve the continuum of care and make the delivery system as seamless as possible, so there could be synergies and opportunities in the year ahead to pursue ventures that will enable us to compete more effectively in this rapidly changing environment.
2. How will we push the boundaries and be Truly Innovative in 2018?
This era of consumerism forces everybody – including traditional providers – to think about doing things differently. I’m a big believer that competition is good. It’s disrupting. It can give you headaches and lead to sleepless nights, but it’s good because it forces you to work harder and get better. It forces organizations to be more efficient, more productive and more creative. These types of disruptions are occurring in all industries, not just health care. To that end, we continue to look to our employees for innovative ideas on how to do their jobs better, invest in startups that are trying to bring exciting new technologies to market and partner with other organizations to enhance what we’re already doing well.
3. What is your top goal this year for Northwell Health?
Northwell Health will continue to expand its ambulatory network, and focus on ways to further enhance the patient experience. As noted earlier, we will continue to pursue innovative partnerships with other companies within and outside of health care. In keeping with our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, we will also enhance our efforts in the disease prevention arena by strengthening our focus on promoting health and wellness. We’ll also continue to leverage new technologies that help improve access to care and our ability to monitor patients’ progress by maximizing our use of artificial or automated intelligence and telemedicine. Another important focus will be on strengthening customer loyalty by connecting with people early in their lives, and then meeting or exceeding their expectations during every encounter we have with them thereafter.
As many of you already know, I was at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson last month when they signed an agreement to join Northwell. It was a happy moment for everyone involved. They represent the 23rd hospital in our health system. Mather has a history and tradition of excellence that we’re proud to be associated with. And we bring to them an array of services and expertise they can leverage to help complement their offerings to Suffolk County residents. We are stronger together. We’ll work hard in 2018 to continue to strengthen that value proposition for our customers.
4. If you could give advice to someone interested in joining the Northwell Health family as an employee, what would it be?
Have a curious mind and a belief in the concept of lifelong learning. Your education doesn’t end when you get a degree. Continue to educate yourself on a daily basis. Next, work hard and always try to do the right thing. Always have a sense of humility about your contributions to the organization. Having a positive attitude is one of most important attributes of any employee, as is perseverance. All of us are going to have bad days from time to time. Never give up when times are tough. And lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. As Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
5. What inspired you to get into health care?
Long before I joined the health system in 1995, I spent more than 20 years working in many different jobs within health and human services, so transitioning into a health care organization seemed like a natural transition. While quite a few people are aware of my background working as director of health, education and human services for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and as a professor of social policy at Fordham University, I previously worked as an administrator in the Rockland County (NY) Department of Social Services, as a social policy consultant and analyst for the Columbia University School of Social Work, the New York State Communities Aid Association, the National Urban League and the United Church of Christ, and earlier as a caseworker in New York City schools.
In terms of inspiration, certainly my upbringing in a poor, rural area of Ireland was a major factor in why I decided to pursue a career in health and human services. I’ve always been driven by a desire to do the right thing and by the benefits I thought I could deliver to the community-at-large. For me, it has never been about personal benefits, but the whole idea of purpose: do well and do good for others.
6. How do you stay focused and motivated year after year?
By continually pursuing new ideas that help me become a better leader and help the organization become more successful. While a lot of people think stress is bad, it pushes you to be more innovative. To be successful in any leadership position, you have to be a little bit unhappy and always searching for ways of doing your job better. As a former athlete, I always draw a parallel to sports. The only way to become good at any sport is to push yourself to the limit. There’s a big gap between our capabilities and our current level of performance. No matter how good you think you are, you can always get better. Having that personal drive and never being satisfied helps you grow, develop and exceed expectations.
An Appointment With: Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Ramon Soto
Welcome to “An Appointment With,” where we sit down one on one with leadership, doctors, nurses and more to bring you their stories. Today we’re meeting SVP, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Ramon Soto, who was the most recent winner of the AHHE Hospital Executive of the Year Award.
How did you know that coming to Northwell Health was the right career move for you?
I didn’t at first. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Patchogue. When I heard about the Chief Marketing Officer position at Northwell Health, then known as North Shore-LIJ Health System, I just remembered the small health care company from my childhood. After doing my research, hearing Michael Dowling speak, and learning about the advancements at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and the Hofstra School of Medicine, I fell in love. I saw the power of this organization and I knew there were stories waiting to be told. This is the best job I’ve ever had.
How has the rebranding process at Northwell Health impacted the organization?
Fundamentally, our hospitals used to run regionally and people associated themselves with the single hospital they worked for. Now people feel like they are all together, and there is a sense of community. This has helped improve our engagement scores. As separate entities, people didn’t know who we were and how we were all connected and now they see all of our locations as one. There has been an undeniable unifying effect on the inside, and ability to shine as a destination health care system.
What is your perspective on leadership?
90% of leadership traits are trainable and there are things you can do throughout your career to be a good leader. My philosophy is: don’t just “dabble” in anything, take it on with all you’ve got. You should know your stuff and strive to be the subject matter experts. When making a decision, you should bring everyone together to help. Leverage diversity of thought and unity in action. If you give people a voice, the execution is always better. If you can adapt your leadership style to fit the needs of your audience as well as the organization, you will be able to grow and flourish.
You recently earned the AHHE Hospital Executive of the Year Award. What have you learned from that experience and what did that mean to you?
The most important part of the awards evening was that my family was there and I was able to reflect on my heritage. This award made me think of my father. He came from Puerto Rico when he was 12 and he didn’t speak a word of English. He pulled himself up from poverty by going to school at night and working hard. He believed you always had a choice: work a job you enjoy or work a job as a chore. He also said to always stretch yourself, whenever you think you can’t do more, you can. His wisdom helped shape who I am today. I went back to get my MBA at 40 even though I had a successful career because of the drive he instilled in me.
Many people of diverse backgrounds have stories like this, and that’s why in terms of diversity in the workplace, it’s important to include individuals from all backgrounds based on their experience and what they’ve done. We need qualified candidates and we need to choose the best of the best. If we don’t include everyone in that pool of candidates, we’re missing out.
However, no institution should ever settle for people who aren’t the top or relax their standards to bring on talent that isn’t qualified.
What is an interesting fact that people should know about you?
I had a perm in high school!
We invite you to come back for the next moment in our Appointment With… blog!
It is the policy of Northwell Health to provide equal employment opportunity and treat all employees equally regardless of age, race, creed/religion, color, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, sex/gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, generic information or genetic predisposition or carrier status, marital status, partnership status, victim of domestic violence, or other characteristics protected by applicable law. Northwell Health leaders, including the CEO, are committed to the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action.