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Nurse to System Executive – A Liaison's Journey

Nurse to System Executive – A Liaison's Journey

Cameron M. McGregor, MSN, RN, FACHE System Vice President, Service Integration Neuroscience and Spine Institutes Premier HealthCameron McGregor understands that physician alignment and engagement are more than abstract concepts; she has built her career around making them happen. Every step in her career, including her experience as a physician liaison, has been oriented toward achieving measurable outcomes through ever-improving communication, relationships, innovation, and integration. Today, as a system-level vice president for Premier Health, Cameron has achieved strategic responsibilities where she can maximize the positive impact of her work.
Cameron clearly reflects the definition of a Liaison Legend: Now in executive management, Legends have achieved roles of greater responsibility. By earning respect and exercising influence in their liaison role, they have effected positive change across many dimensions of their organizations and the industry. They elevate the profession, serve as mentors, and provide inspiration to others.

Cameron shares insights about her journey from registered nurse to vice president, and the fundamental relationship skills that are essential for professional success in any role.

How did you enter the liaison role?

I was a nurse finishing the last semester of my graduate degree in health systems management. The local hospital was looking for someone to help grow their imaging business. Although I had worked in that system as an RN, I didn’t want to be on the CNO track. This was the opportunity to get started in administration doing something with which I was already familiar – physician alignment and relations.

What are the essential skills or qualities that helped you succeed as a liaison?

Being direct and candid – if I don’t know or if the news is bad, I just say it. I don’t like the “slow no” – it’s irritating and belittling. A sense of humor helps, but can be risky; you must know your audience. Finally, I never forget that everything I do gets to the patient level, even if indirectly, which I take extremely seriously.

What was your most memorable accomplishment?

We were facing a situation where we risked losing an award-winning surgical program being provided by one physician group for years. Overnight, they resigned because of a strategic decision that was executed without all the facts. In order to get the physicians to come to the table to even discuss it, I had to leverage all of my relationship capital with them. Eventually, we resolved the issue and salvaged the program, but it took a team of people and a lot of convincing. I still have the note from them framed in my office today to remind me of how important those connections are.

What part of your job as a liaison did you love the most?

Setting the growth strategy for imaging for a community hospital was very satisfying. At the time, I was able to do things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do in a larger hospital, and it sparked my interest in leading strategic growth.

What was the least favorite part of your job?

Cold calls! I am an introvert by nature, and the idea of walking up to someone I didn’t know in the offices and starting a conversation was actually terrifying. Turns out, it’s served me well because I learned how important it is to bring value to every encounter. But, for the record: I still hate it.

As the role of liaison has evolved – what has changed the most?

Technology and social media. I was out in the field with a flip phone first, then upgraded to a blackberry (I’m pretty sure it was the prototype, the thing wasn’t even in color yet). Social media didn’t exist – there was no LinkedIn or Twitter. No one had an “internet presence” and you couldn’t connect or research anyone before a meeting to prepare the way you can today. News traveled by word of mouth rather than push of a button.

What future steps in your career path look most appealing to you?

Learning the value side of the world. I grew up in volume-based care models and have learned an unfathomable amount. I’m sure there is still a lot I don’t know. However, purely volume-driven models will not last much longer. I’d like to understand how the value-based models work. It’s very much like learning a second language – immersion is the best way to study it.

What advice do you have for your “younger self” and for your “future self?”

My younger self: You have just as much culpability in your professional relationship failures as others do (maybe more). Respect the position and authority senior executives hold; you have absolutely no idea how challenging that job really is.
My future self: Don’t be late for meetings with subordinates. Answer emails to people four rungs down on the ladder as fast as you do the ones two rungs higher. Keep that note in your office, as well as the other trappings that remind you from where you came; those people helped get you where you are. I hope that someone framed your note in their office, too.

What favorite quote/famous person provides you with motivation and confidence?

I used to have dozens but there is only one now. It’s from a trauma patient who came back to speak at a conference about his experience. The facilitator asked him to tell us the one thing he would say to us as leaders of the health system. His response was: “If you don’t like your job, get out, because, peoples’ lives depend on it.” It was a sobering reminder of why I’m here.

What is on the top of your personal and professional bucket-lists?

Give a TED talk on high-performing teams.

If you could leave a legacy to your successor, your hospital or community: what would it be?

I want to be known for having done something that improved the health of an entire patient population. I was privileged to be part of an innovative team that is working toward reducing infant mortality rates. Any amount of responsibility for even one at-risk baby celebrating their first birthday as a result of our work is the kind of legacy I want to leave.

Whom do you consider to be a mentor?

I have many – they have all taught me different things, but I consider Tammy Tiller-Hewitt among the top of that list. She took this nurse without an ounce of administrative experience, fresh out of grad school, forced me out of anything familiar and comfortable, opened doors I didn’t even know were there and taught me relationship skills I still use to this day.

In what ways has the Tiller-Hewitt program made a difference in your professional journey?

In our world, which is traditionally filled with linear thinking and scientific minds, the Tiller-Hewitt program put a framework around what is otherwise a very nebulous notion. The fact is: you can get measurable results from what is usually considered “soft” skills like relationship building.

Being able to prove success in black and white by using this model is what enabled me to progress to this point. There’s no question I owe my career to this program.
The Liaison Legacy series celebrates the 15th anniversary of Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies by offering a forum for sharing best practices. Learn more about how we can help you leave a strong legacy within your profession, hospital, and community.