Local Leaders with Lynn Ricci, Hospital for Special Care

Feb 03, 2017

Last week, HYPE members had the chance to have lunch with Lynn Ricci, CEO & President at the Hospital for Special Care. One of the nation’s largest specialty care hospitals and the only long-term acute care hospital in the U.S. serving adults and children, Hospital for Special care is nationally recognized for the advanced care and rehabilitation in the highly-specialized areas of pulmonary care, acquired brain injury, medically-complex pediatrics, neuromuscular disorders (including ALS research), spinal cord injury, as well as a variety of diagnostic, assessment, consulting services for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
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Growing up as the fifth of six children, Lynn credits much of her success to her upbringing, which set the foundation for her work ethic and drive. Her father was a career military man, and her mother, a German immigrant, was a beautician and owner her own shop. Both of Lynn’s parents worked hard to provide for their family, and Lynn learned at an early age a sense of responsibility and caregiving from growing up in a larger family. Lynn was an active gymnast and cheerleader, both sports requiring a strong sense of discipline, and volunteered at a Veterans hospital as a teen. This experience reinforced her desires to go into the healthcare field, specifically into psychology, given her love of working with people.

Receiving her degree in Psychology from Towson University, Lynn applied for a job at a coed Catholic high school, where she counseled students and coached as she worked on her Masters. By the age of 23, she was the Vice Principal of the school, an opportunity she did not plan on, but was happy to accept. Once her Masters in School Psychology was complete, she left the school and began working in a medical practice testing for psychological and cognitive problems in patients, until she found herself in Connecticut, where she discovered she would need to go back to school in order to practice school psychology. For the next six years, Lynn went back to school, and as a lifelong learner, continues to this day to seek out opportunities to learn and grow as a professional. During this time, Lynn found herself working as a Psychology Associate in a nursing home, and credits this as one of those opportunities that leads to a great life transition. Although Lynn was studying again to practice school psychology, she found great passion in her impactful and meaningful work at the nursing home, so much so that she stayed on even after completing her education.

Lynn was now working in a different role, managing others in more administrative role compared to the program work she had been doing previously. Once again the lifelong learner found her back in school, this time working towards her license in nursing home administration. While Lynn loved working at the nursing home, it was also her most difficult job. She was not only responsible for her patients and staff, but for maintaining and meeting regulations. An around the clock job, Lynn was always on call, and held herself to a very high standard stating. She expressed that her mind frame was “I am only as good as my worst CNA”, and worked hard to maintain a high quality of service and a positive work envIMG_5761ironment for staff.

After the company who owned the facility sold it, Lynn left the organization, no longer comfortable with the integrity of the owners. Lynn went on to be the director of operations for a large multispecialty group, but quickly realized she disliked the traditional 9-5 office setting. There was little opportunity to do the things she enjoyed about previous role, such as building personal relationships, connecting with others, and having a passion for the mission of her work. Soon after she was recruited to run a nursing home that was owned by the hospital system. Lynn was autonomous in this role, having more experiences in running a facility than the hospital, who wasn’t as familiar with the nursing home business.

It was this role that introduced Lynn to the Hospital for Special Care, and she was brought on to oversee strategic planning and marketing for the hospital. Instead of making drastic changes immediately, Lynn took some time to get to know staff and the inner workings of the hospital first. "Respect the culture that you’re in and try to understand it before you move too quickly," Lynn said of taking on a new role. While she learned marketing in this role, Lynn spent much of her time communicating the hospitals mission to the public, once again working with people and building relationships.

Now, as President and CEO, Lynn is proud of the accomplishments of the Hospital in its 75 year, especially the growth they have seen. With the completion of a new outpatient wing, the Hospital has seen outpatient visits grow from 25,000 to over 40,000. This growth is important for the patients served, many of who are not affluent due to their acute or chronic conditions. Under Lynn’s leadership, the Hospital built an Autism program serving youth and their families. This is all in addition to the 100 patients who call the hospital their home for short and long term care. The hospital also offers programs outside of their traditional care, specifically adaptive sports for their patients.

When asked how Lynn and colleagues recruit and retain young talent, sIMG_5676he remarked that through partnerships with over 100 different organizations, they get to know potential applicants and can recruit talent through trainings as well. Unlike many other facilities, Hospital for Special Care is committed to working with new graduates, on the hopes that they will stay and grow within the Hospital. Lynn expressed that they are also working to provide the kind of work life balance that many young professionals seek, offering flexible scheduling. When hiring for healthcare, Lynn looks for a variety of competencies and skills including compassion, empathy confidence, and resiliency. She also recognizes that management need to be willing to mentor and help employees grow.

Lynn was also asked for her best practices in leading through change effectively. She recommends having a strong communication plan, and giving employees a lot of time to absorb the changes before the come into effect. If your employees know they are valued and you are willing to be honest with them, they will begin to accept the changes, although there will never be a consensus. Lynn also stressed the importance of learning to take care of yourself as a leader, and although you must be able to take risks, you must also eventually learn to say “no” at times. She encouraged attendees to focus on time management, and make sure that if you do say “yes”, you have the time and ability to be truly effective.

Attendees were able to take a tour of the hospital, and learn more about the patients they serve. A yearly staff campaign has raised funds for such things as an outside area built to mimic real life challenges patients pay face when leaving the hospital. Something as seemingly simple as checking the mail is a skill that may have to be relearned for some patients, and they have a place to practice safely. The Hospital has also hosted a wedding! Two patients of the Hospital were married on the campus, and even featured in a short documentary. It is clear that Lynn and her staff take great pride in the services they offer their patients, and continue to go above and beyond to better the lives of those they serve.  

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Thank you to Lynn and the Hospital for Special Care for hosting us! Check out Facebook for more photos!                                                                                                     

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