Last month, Flo Spyrow was named the President & CEO of Northern Arizona Healthcare after serving as the interim leader NAH for the past six months. We caught up with her recently and learned more about her background, what brought her to Flagstaff and how she transformed a nursing career into a law degree and leading the largest healthcare organization in the region.
Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from originally?
I grew up in a military family and traveled the country, moving frequently, from Coronado Island, CA to Providence, RI. These experiences taught me the value of family and friends (and how to make them quickly!) I married my husband, Chris, 41 years ago. We relocated from the Midwest, after he spent 38 years at Deere and Company, and we are happy to exchange corn fields for Ponderosas! We have one son, Andrew, who is the light of our life and will be married at the end of October.
My career started as an RN in a neonatal intensive care unit in Portland, OR. Being a nurse and the experiences that I have had caring for patients is the constant driving force in how I lead. I had a “midlife crisis” and went to law school in 1998, practicing as in-house counsel for a healthcare system for 8 years. I came “home” to hospital administration during a leadership transition and have found joy in working with care providers ever since.
What inspired you to pursue nursing?
I was raised in a family in which service to others, whether through community activities, volunteering, or caring for people in need, was a priority. Thus, I grew up knowing that I would do something to serve others. My mother worked in the home and I never had the intention to have a career. I loved being a nurse and so my career just evolved as the years went by.
You made a major trajectory change mid-career. What inspired you to go from nursing to administration to law?
My husband was transferred with Deere & Company from Portland to Merced, CA. There was a management job open at the county hospital or a staff nurse job at the private Catholic hospital. I took the management job because I would have to wear a nurse’s hat, skirt past my knees and white hose at the Catholic hospital! I learned to love administration because I could impact the lives of more patients by creating great environments for care providers to work in. I worked in many areas of nursing and hospital administration after that. However, I was drawn to an organization that was committed to patient safety and utilized attorneys to facilitate changes in systems and process to prevent patient harm. When I was accepted to law school, my healthcare system offered to pay for school if I would return and start an in-house counsel program for them. I finished law school in two years and developed a very unique role in that system focusing on strategy execution and mergers/acquisitions.
What changes are you most excited about at NAH?
The most exciting change has been the New Era Strategic Plan, which was recently developed by our Board of Directors with input from colleagues and providers. It is the first comprehensive strategic plan to be developed by NAH. It started with a new mission (Improving health, healing people) and a new vision (Always better care. Every person, every time…together). They were adopted by the Board last fall. This plan recognizes the changing healthcare environment (some would say tumultuous environment!) directing us to transition from a hospital-based system to one that coordinates care across the continuum. It also identifies the initiatives that NAH will undertake to provide a laser focus on our patients and communities, earning the privilege of serving you every day. If I had to sum it up in a few words, I would say it is “all about YOU, our patients and communities.”
Another exciting development is that the Board, consistent with the New Era Plan, has committed more than $300 million in facility development across our system. As many of you have experienced, FMC is sometimes in need of patient beds for hospital care and is often in need of parking! We also have plans for new ambulatory facilities across our system and for inpatient expansion at FMC.
Why is NAH involved in ECoNA?
NAH is concerned about the health of our community. There are many factors that contribute to the health of a community. For example, good healthcare, good school systems, a thriving economy, and affordable housing are just a few. As good stewards within our communities, we have a responsibility not only to deliver amazing healthcare to our communities but to collaborate with other community organizations to make us all thrive. One example is that we are committed to recruiting and retaining the very best healthcare providers to provide care in our communities. A big challenge for us is the lack of affordable housing in the Flagstaff area. I know we share this challenge with other organizations in our community. Coming together to collaborate on shared challenges and working together to make our community a desirable place to live helps all of us build a healthy community!