Lee Clinton, TAH CEO, featured in national magazine

Lee Clinton, TAH CEO

Titusville Area Hospital CEO Lee Clinton was recently featured in a national magazine published by the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC).

Clinton said the AARC looked through their membership roster and came across his name and noticed that he was CEO of TAH, and had maintained his membership in the association (he joined AARC in 1999).

He said AARC contacted him about doing a question and answer article for the association’s Career News publication.

Clinton said the national publication goes out to AARC members; and the association has 52,000 members across the country.

He said respiratory therapy is like the nursing profession, it has the 2-year associate degree and the 4-year bachelor’s degree programs.

“There’s been a lot of talk on the national level to get rid of the associate degree and increase the education to a four-year level,” Clinton said.

He added that he assumes the article shows that if respiratory therapists further their education, it creates an opportunity to advance in their careers.

Here are excerpts from the article:

According to AARC, as a respiratory therapist, you know you have lots of career options. But just how far can you go in terms of career advancement? Lee Clinton began his career just like the rest of us (as a bedside clinician) explained how he ended up as CEO of a critical access hospital.

Question: When, why, and where did you become a respiratory therapist?

Clinton: I received my bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy from the University of Missouri in 2001. I was introduced to respiratory therapy as a profession by a friend in college who had cystic fibrosis and relied on the care and treatment from RTs.

Question: What are some of the career building steps you took to work your way up the ladder and why do you think they were important to your advancement?

Clinton: Following graduation from RT school I worked full-time on the night shift while I pursued a master’s degree in health care administration, also from the University of Missouri, and later an MBA. Like most leaders with a clinical background I got my first supervisory opportunity overseeing a respiratory therapy department at a HealthSouth inpatient rehab hospital. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to grow and supervise some additional ancillary departments after a short period of time.

With that multi-departmental supervisory experience, a clinical background, and the knowledge of regulatory and accrediting bodies I learned at HealthSouth, I then took a position as the COO of a critical access hospital in southeast Missouri. I spent 10 years in that position before accepting my current role as the CEO of a critical access hospital in northwest Pennsylvania.

Question: What led to your interest in acquiring the top job in the hospital where you are now and what does that job entail?

Clinton: After spending 10 years in the number two seat as COO, I felt I was ready and well prepared for a CEO position, and I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors and colleagues over the years. In my current role, I serve as the site chief executive of the system-owned critical access hospital and system VP, reporting to the CEO of the parent organization. As the CEO I am responsible for the overall efficient functioning and coordination of all hospital departments, strategic planning, program development, organization of departments, control of activities, and interpreting and administering policies of the Governing Board, as well as ultimately responsible for all financial and program performance. I directly manage the organization VPs and select department directors and interface with system hospital leaders on a daily basis.

Question: How is your background as a respiratory therapist helping you in your role in upper management?

Clinton: I believe that having a clinical background is a very positive attribute of a leader in a health care organization and I believe it lends credibility that “the guy in the suit,” as executives are sometimes called, doesn’t only understand or care about the numbers. It provides first-hand knowledge of the dynamics of the clinical team, as well as simple things like medical terminology.

Question: You’ve maintained your membership in the AARC. Why is it important to you to continue to belong to the association that represents your initial role in health care?

Clinton: I’ll always have an affinity for respiratory care and would like to see the profession grow and succeed. I believe the AARC is the vehicle to make that happen on a national level and therefore believe supporting it is worthwhile.

Question: What advice do you have for other therapists who see themselves climbing the ladder to the top one day?

Clinton: Have a plan for what you want from your career. To rise in the ranks of health care leadership it takes sacrifice, personal accountability, and the ability to hold others accountable in a way that builds them up versus tearing them down. I think it looks easier from the outside looking in, but the reality is, not everyone is cut out to be a good leader. If you are, find a good mentor to help give you feedback about yourself and be someone you can confide in. Don’t choose a mentor because you think they can give you a job — it’s much deeper than that.

Finally, experience is very meaningful. Gain as much experience as you can in topics that lead you toward your goal of advancement. Volunteer to get on committees and do some heavy lifting. Early in your career it’s about gaining experience that you can draw upon and highlight to allow yourself to be considered for advancement.

Link to Article

Hill can be reached by email, at mhill@titusvilleherald.com; and AARC’s website can be found at AARC.org.