Growing up in her small hometown in Illinois, Shelley Neal Shaughnessey always thought about working in hospital administration and living in Kentucky — true story. Her neighbor, who was a hospital administrator, inspired her to work towards that goal, starting at the University of Kentucky. Her father also inspired her move; He was in the horse business and would come to Louisville on business, not to mention he was a huge University of Kentucky basketball fan. Now, she has worked for KentuckyOne Health for 23 years in the career she dreamed of, currently as head of Ambulatory Services (and no, that is not ambulances as we originally mistakenly thought, it is any walk-in outpatient health center). She oversees 11 of these venues around Kentucky and, today, this busy lady shares her secrets of staying power and flexibility in the same career.
You grew up knowing you wanted to work for a hospital. What led you to the business side of the medical business, rather than the clinical side?
Yes, I was always drawn to the healthcare field, as I wanted to work in an industry that served the community. As I advanced through high school, I found that my likes and strengths were more aligned with business interaction versus scientific studies. I had a neighbor who was a hospital administrator. That sounded like fun and something I would enjoy, so I went with where I thought I could add the most value.
What brought you to Kentucky from Illinois where you grew up?
It really all boils down to my dad. He dabbled in the horse business, so we spent time at The Red Mile and Louisville Downs, so I was somewhat familiar with Kentucky. Plus, not only was he a huge college basketball fan but, in particular, he loved the Kentucky Wildcats. When it came time to choose colleges, the natural choice for me was UK. Kentucky has been my home ever since!
How long have you worked here? What changes have you seen over your tenure here?
I have worked here 23 years. I started in May 1993. I have seen a lot of changes. When I started, the organization was a single tertiary care hospital that managed a small network of community hospitals. The organization has evolved into a health system serving the Commonwealth of Kentucky across the continuum of care. This industry has seen significant changes over my 20-plus year career. Single hospitals are now part of large health systems. Care has shifted from an inpatient “sick care” focus to providing both “sick care” and “well care” across the continuum. We have seen huge advances in technology, which has changed the delivery model; the emergence of retail care — this is just to name a few of the changes. What has not changed, though, and what drives my passion for this industry is that the patient has remained the center of all we do.
How many ambulatory centers do you oversee? How do you keep your finger on the pulse of all these organizations?
I oversee 10 ambulatory centers and one acute care hospital. I surround myself with a great team. I couldn’t do this work without dedicated leaders and compassionate employees. KentuckyOne has a mission-driven culture — we are all aligned with a common purpose, to put the patient first and truly live our mission of bringing wellness, healing and hope to all.
What would your advice be to women interested in the same line of work?
One of my mentors once said during a time of significant change, “Be flexible, add value and don’t be a victim.” That has stuck with me. In fact, I have it written on a sticky note in my desk. But in today’s world, I would re-phrase a bit to say, “Lead boldly, work collaboratively and serve with passion.”
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Every day and every week are different, and that is one of the things I love about my job: It is always exciting, I am still continuously learning and each day always brings about a new opportunity. Having said that though, I do try to manage a balanced agenda throughout the week, ensuring that I spend time engaging with employees and physicians, focusing on patient safety, quality and service, and thinking strategically about ways to continually enhance and grow our business.
What advice do you treasure?
As I was contemplating making a career move within the organization and expressing some reservations, my mentor, Debbie Molnar, told me not to be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Some of the best work occurs when you don’t have all the answers and have to ask more questions. I still reflect on that advice each time I find myself in unfamiliar territory. It is how I have continued to learn and grow as a leader.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _____________.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Going to Kentucky Oaks and Derby
Are you a night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Neither, really; my favorite quiet time is Saturday morning coffee time with my husband.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Lightning round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: Pizza and potato chips
Guilty pleasure song: “Candy Girl” by New Edition
Tearjerker movie pick: Love Story with Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw
Standby nail polish color: Strawberry Margarita
Favorite cocktail: Depends; either Michelob Ultra or Absolut Mandarin with ginger ale, a splash of cranberry and a lime.
Cartoon alter-ego: Catwoman. She’s clever, sassy and smart.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
- Our dogs, Dixie and Woodford
- Going to gym with my husband
- Family vacations
Thank you to Adele Reding for today’s beautiful photography.
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