Interview with Elena Rom, Nurse Administrator and CEO of Abcor Home Health.
A passion for hands-on nursing and an interest in supervising and directing staff—Elena Rom combined both of these elements to forge a nurse administration career that is both challenging and rewarding. Today, she is the CEO of Abcor Home Health, a home health care agency that specializes in home care services and senior care. As a nurse administrator, Rom has the opportunity to help others on a daily basis in addition to performing managerial duties including directing clinical activities, supervising employees, and overseeing financial activities – all responsibilities she enjoys. While her career entails many additional responsibilities beyond a standard nursing career— including an abundance of critical and creative thinking—Rom says that it’s this variety of responsibility that she loves about her job.
Rom began her nursing education by earning her Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to obtaining her RN licensure, she is also a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and is certified in wound care (WCC) by the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy. Her roles as an ICU trauma nurse and a home health care manager were instrumental in helping her gain critical experience for her current position.
As CEO and nurse administrator, Rom speaks frequently on the topics of home care and home health services at local community care units, managed care organizations, and in-home service agencies. She stays up-to-date on nursing and administration protocols and processes by regularly attending seminars and continuing education courses.
Enjoy our full interview with Elena Rom as she discusses the training and experience she finds are necessary to having a rewarding and successful career in nurse administration.
GradSchools: Tell us more about your education and background. What led you to pursue your education in nursing and a career as a nursing executive?
Well, in terms of standard nursing, the reason anybody goes down that path is because they like helping people and they are interested in the sciences. Nursing may be a very stable long-term career choice, so I think that helps guide some people towards the field as well. Becoming a nursing executive is a whole other ballgame. To enjoy that, you have to also enjoy managing people and sorting out the various administrative aspects of running a business. Luckily, none of those were problems for me!
In terms of my education, I received my BSN from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2007. I am a Registered Nurse (RN), a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), and I am also wound care certified (WCC) by the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy. I was an ICU trauma nurse for 2 years and a Home Health Care Manager as an RN for 3 years.
GradSchools: What is a nurse executive, for those who are only familiar with the role of clinical nurses?
As a nurse executive, you have many additional responsibilities in the workplace. For example, depending on the structure of the specific organization, a nurse executive may find themselves performing any of the following functions:
Directly supervising employees at various levels
- Directing clinical activities
- Managing HR
- Directing financial activities
- Overseeing day to day operations
Creative thinking in program development is essential for this position, and this is not possible without a clinical background and a detailed understanding of bedside patient care.
GradSchools: How did you go from being a registered nurse to becoming a nurse administrator? What were some of the challenges of this transition?
I think this might have been the hardest part of the whole process, because you have to work to get experience while also learning on the side to really enhance your career. Personally, I was working 2 jobs at the same time to make everything work. At the same time, I had to keep up with changes in program requirements, learn to read administrative codes, rules, and regulations, and figure out how we could stay compliant with numerous state and federal requirements. This was definitely not easy! Still, one of the hardest parts of being an executive is HR; hiring staff and managing issues as they arise must be handled with great sensitivity, and this takes a huge learning curve.
GradSchools: What training, education, and experience contributed to preparing you for changing roles?
The 3 skills I like to think are the most critical in my success are critical thinking, case management, and internal management. These skills are developed in different ways and frequently in different settings or job.
Personally, I developed my critical thinking skills through my education and my time as an ICU nurse. In settings like the ICU, any mistake or even a delay can cost someone their life, so you have to think critically to solve the issues that come up ASAP. Further, working as a home health nurse gave me a great understanding of case management, and allows me to consult with my current employees who are in similar situations to those I saw in my own career. Finally, though you really have to hone these skills on the job, I tend to view the basics of good management as stemming from the nursing code of ethics we are all sworn to uphold. Once you hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your actions, the rest of management will follow if you work hard to learn.
GradSchools: Where do you see the future of healthcare going and what do you anticipate for nursing administrators/executives?
I believe that acuity of patients has increased each year and will continue to increase going forward. With this, the accountability and responsibility required from healthcare professionals is growing as well.
GradSchools: Can you walk us through the day-to-day responsibilities in your role as CEO at Abcor Home Health?
Sure! First is staff supervision. I meet with department managers daily and discuss progress. Together, we figure out what exactly needs to be done, by whom, and when. Obviously, this involves a significant amount of delegation and setting expectations for deliverables with employees. I am also responsible for long-term strategic planning, so I do work on my own quite a bit. Finally, I am frequently on the phone or in meetings designed to coordinate communication with outside partners to ensure the business continues to run smoothly.
GradSchools: What have you brought from your other positions (as an intensive care unit registered nurse, case manager at a home health agency, in hospice, etc.) to your role as a nurse executive?
Personally, I developed my critical thinking and prioritization skills through my education and my time as an ICU nurse. In settings like the ICU, any mistake or even a delay can cost someone their life, so you have to think critically to solve the issues that come up ASAP. Further, working as a home health nurse gave me a great understanding of case management and planning, and allows me to consult with my current employees who are in similar situations to those I saw in my own career. Finally, though you really have to hone these skills on the job, I tend to view the basics of good management as stemming from the nursing code of ethics we are all sworn to uphold. Once you hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your actions, the rest of management will follow if you work hard to learn.
GradSchools: In your opinion, what skills and qualities do you think are beneficial for a nurse administrator to possess or develop?
Leadership is a broad term, but that’s the most important thing for administrators of any kind, not just nurse administrators. Effective leadership involves really getting into the trenches and mentoring employees, motivating them to make the most of their job, and using your experience to educate them where necessary to fill in any gaps.
GradSchools: What is the most rewarding or exciting thing about the work you do?
Wow – there are so many aspects I love about my job that it’s hard to pick just one! Here are a few things I particularly enjoy:
- Helping seniors remain in the comfort of their homes as they age
- Building a constantly evolving organization that’s more like a living organism than a static block
- Integrating company values into the everyday activities of the organization
GradSchools: What advice do you have for a student who is interested in applying to a nurse administration or healthcare administration degree program? How can they prepare themselves for the challenges?
Well, I think a diverse skill set is the best tool you can bring to the table. Those with a very specific specialty may find it more difficult to adapt. That said, a few specific skills that are worth developing include:
- The ability to read and comprehend large volumes of data
- The ability to think critically and make effective decisions quickly
- The ability to effectively prioritize
- Experience in many diverse areas of practice
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