Hillcrest Hospital Claremore CEO David Chaussard Receives Ardent CEO of the Year Award

“You’re sitting there listening and until they called my name, it hadn’t even registered that it could be me,” Hillcrest Hospital Claremore CEO David Chaussard says of the moment sitting in a quality meeting with fellow CEOs and CNOs from across Ardent Health Services where he was recognized as Ardent’s 2015 CEO of the Year. “I was very surprised – shocked!” A nursing career with roots in his childhood experiences visiting his family practitioner took David around the world, found a home in Claremore and the admiration of his peers in health care. “I think my background in nursing, coming from the clinical side, helps in every aspect of what I do.”

Growing up in a small town in Kansas, David says he will never forget his earliest memories of visiting their family doctor. “Our family physician kept a little jar of nickels on his desk,” he recalls. “After he saw you, you got a nickel. He was very nice - a professional, true gentleman – and someone as a child I looked up to. That really piqued my thoughts about medicine.”

After losing both of his grandfathers to illness and witnessing the care they received, David entered college with a personal and professional interest in health care. “I had an advisor in college who said, ‘At this point in time, nursing is a great field,’ he remembers. ‘There will be a tremendous amount of opportunity for nurses.’ Back in the late 1970s, it was still a fairly new profession for males.”

With four other men in his class in the nursing program, David graduated from Pittsburg State University and started his career in nursing. “A neighbor, who was a nurse and positive influence in my life, convinced me to consider going into management,” he adds. “So I went back to school and started evening courses working on my MBA.”

Soon after becoming a nurse manager, David was offered his first executive leadership position as a Director of Nursing in Manhattan, KS in 1987. Three years later, he moved to Claremore serving as the Director of Nursing at Claremore Regional Hospital, until stepping into the CNO/COO role in 1997. An opportunity to travel the world recruiting nurses took David to places he never anticipated his nursing career would take him. “Growing up in a town of 2,000 people, I never thought I would do that,” he says. “I had some tremendous experiences.”

David became CEO of Claremore Regional Hospital in 2004, and the hospital was acquired by Ardent Health Services, based in Nashville, TN in 2011. “The key advice, I really feel I have worked on and used my entire career, is to treat everyone you work with like you want to be treated,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if it is another leader in the organization or an employee doing any job in our facility. Everyone should be treated with respect and treated the same way.”

From those early days in 1990 to today, David says Hillcrest Hospital Claremore, the hospital’s new name following rebranding in 2012, has made great strides to provide for the community. “The biggest change we’ve made over the years is leadership rounding,” he says. “Everyone on our leadership team makes rounds on patients every day. I don’t think it gets any more important than that. You get to find out firsthand from the patients how things are going for them. The majority of patients I round on are very satisfied and have glowing things to say about our staff, but every now and then we find an opportunity to make a change to improve our patient experience.”

Communication, David says, is the cornerstone to recognizing and utilizing those opportunities to improve the patient experience. It begins with weekly meetings with his leadership team. “We go around the room and give everyone a chance to communicate opportunities with our entire team,” David shares. “That face-to-face communication is really important.”

David also shares this advice to others with aspirations of leadership in health care. “Stay close to what’s going on,” he adds. “Be as involved as you can be. Listen to what people have to say.”

One way leadership listens to what others say is through their monthly employee recognition program – O.S.C.A.R – which stands for Overall Service Compassion Award of Recognition. Rosalinda “Rose” Williams, in environmental services, received the award in September. “I have had more positive compliments about the job she does and how she talks to patients as she is cleaning rooms than anyone else,” adds David. “It just really emphasizes how much patients appreciate spending time with them while they are doing the rest of their job.”

Though focused on the details, the big picture is never out of sight for David and his leadership team. “We need to continue to grow and provide more services so that the people in northeast Oklahoma get to stay close for their health care,” he adds. “That’s so important. I’m proud to say we have the strongest medical group and the best leadership team we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

It is a point David illustrates sharing a recent patient story. “Not long after we started treating heart attack patients in the new cardiac catheterization lab, we had a patient come into the Emergency Department not even breathing,” he says.  “We’re talking touch-and-go. They got the patient to the cath lab and that evening when I was making rounds, I saw the patient in the ICU having dinner. That’s the kind of difference we’re making today.”

A former Claremore Chamber of Commerce chairperson and active on several boards, David is also making a difference in the community.  “You can be involved and have an impact,” he says of volunteer and leadership opportunities in Claremore. “You’re learning about what is needed in the community. It helps the hospital and at the same time it helps Claremore. It improves the lives of everyone in the community.”

Giving his time to the hospital and community is not strictly a weekday endeavor. “My wife, Audrey, has been tremendously supportive of my career,” he shares. “There are nights away at meetings or events. It takes a special person to take on additional responsibilities at home, be involved in the community herself or attend functions with me and to contribute to your career. My wife has been just phenomenal.”

As he stands with Ardent Health Services President and CEO David Vandewater and Hillcrest HealthCare System CEO Kevin Gross accepting the CEO of the Year award, David says being named Ardent CEO of the Year is an accomplishment for his team. “This award is really attributable to all of our staff, our management group and the leaders at our facility,” he says. “You don’t ever win anything like this on your own.”

Pictured above: Ardent Health Services President and CEO David T. Vandewater, Hillcrest Hospital Claremore CEO David Chaussard and Hillcrest HealthCare System President and CEO Kevin Gross