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Retain CEOs to cultivate your hospital culture

December 1st, 2011

by Anthony Cirillo

I am going to put forth a New Year's Resolution a month early and get ahead of the competition. Let us resolve to reduce CEO turnover and instill succession planning in healthcare organizations.


Because according to the September/October issue of Healthcare Executive, there was a 14.6 percent CEO turnover rate in 2001. That jumped to 17 percent in 2009, and my feeling is that it is now probably higher.

Is it consolidation forcing the need for fewer CEOs? Is it the retirement of baby boomer age CEOs? Or is it the stress and burnout caused by the position? I am voting for the last one.


Here's more healthcare CEO statistics:

  • Median tenure = 4 years
  • Mean tenure = 6.2 years
  • 58 percent have held the position less than 5 years

The culture cannot be sustained with constant leadership turnover. We already know what is happening in the nursing ranks, with increased burnout and depression. And since culture is essential to patient experience initiatives taking hold and being sustained, well, it's easy to see how patient experience could take a backseat to more pressing operational demands.

I also would venture to guess that healthcare organizations fail to aptly groom someone to be CEO. Thrust into that position, you only have a short time to prove yourself; it's sink or swim. According to Healthcare Executive, just 21 percent of hospitals have a succession plan and it takes six months to a year to replace the position.

Perhaps we need to start looking at the boards of directors of our healthcare institutions. After all, doesn't the buck really stop there? See, for many leading our healthcare institutions, the simple fact is they may not want to change and will not change unless a higher authority mandates it.

So maybe we resolve in 2012 to build better boards of directors as well.

Happy and healthy holidays everyone. Want to learn how to become a CEO? As my gift to you, I will send you a free e-book written by my strategic partner, Tom Voccola, called "The Accidental CEO." It is a powerful book that you may want to read and contemplate over the holiday break. Contact me and request the book. Thanks.

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting, which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He is also the expert guide in Assisted Living for


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