Did you know more than 27 million patients are treated at HCA-affiliated hospitals each year? We have a huge opportunity – and responsibility – to deliver exceptional patient experiences with each interaction. That’s why HCA hired Lyn Ketelsen as its first-ever chief patient experience officer in February 2015. Since then Ketelsen and her team have worked to develop and deploy strategy, tools and resources to ensure HCA is known for its unyielding commitment to care.

Ketelsen joined HCA from the Studer Group, an organization that works with healthcare providers to improve patient outcomes, where she worked for 13 years as a senior leader and coach. She is a co-author of the largest study ever conducted on reducing patient-initiated call lights, a bedside button in a patient’s room that indicates a need or requires attention from the nurse on duty, published in The American Journal of Nursing in September 2006. This study was the basis for the development of Hourly Rounding®, and where Ketelsen became known as the “birth mother” of hourly rounds.

Read on for more about Ketelsen’s career journey, what a positive patient experience looks like and the best piece of advice she’s ever received.

Hometown: I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but I have called the Quad Cities, a region of counties in Illinois and Iowa, my home for 42 years.

Life before HCA: I started my healthcare experience in nursing, spending 15 years in nursing roles. I was honored to serve most of my clinical background in pediatrics and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as a nurse and nurse leader. The last 17 years I have spent focusing on patient experience – the majority of that time in a consulting role – where I had the privilege of seeing healthcare in a very broad context, strategically, operationally, and in as many different settings as there are in healthcare today. That has shaped my lens and the experience that I bring to HCA.

How does your background in nursing help with your job today? The nursing process still plays a huge role in how I think about assessment and planning within organizations and it provides me a level of credibility in the healthcare arena. Even though I’ve been out of nursing operations for a long time, I still rely heavily on those experiences today in decision making and I still fundamentally bring the heart of a nurse to shape how we think about delivering care to the patients of HCA. I believe I still have a nursing practice; I just care for different kinds or patients: staff, leaders and organizations.

What does a positive patient experience look like to you? When a patient leaves our care and feels like they’ve been kept safe, they’ve been respected, and felt truly cared for.

How do you measure the patient experience? Formally, we measure through our series of CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) surveys that allow us to compare performance with others in the industry. Informally, we have listening posts to gather feedback dynamically though social media using natural language processing – a way of collating comments to identify themes more quantitatively – and, of course, our rounding strategies. We also glean information from follow-up phone calls after patients have had care and services. Those are the big ways we measure and gather information. All of which help inform us thematically on where our greatest opportunities are.

Sum up your job in three words:  A huge privilege.

Best piece of advice you’ve received: You’re better off being on the bench of a championship team than being a star player on a “B” team. Always work to surround yourself with champions because you’ll learn more and raise your game.

How do you decompress? Riding my motorcycle – you have to be so focused on driving that you really can’t have anything else on your mind. And spending time with family.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? An opera singer. I actually had a full college scholarship for vocal music, but turned it down to get married and start a family.

What’s the best part of your job? The opportunity to work with really great leaders to provide an element of care that is so challenging but so powerful.

What’s the hardest part of your job? The fact that this work is so challenging. It’s a complex set of initiatives, all tied to operations. There will never be one answer or “fix” to all of our patient experience challenges; rather, a system of solutions that all have to function like a well-oiled machine in order to get results.

Can’t live without…  Family. (Ketelsen has two children, four step children and 12 grandchildren, with one more due in August.)

Who or what is your biggest inspiration? My mother and father imparted a work ethic and set of values that guide me today. My father was very influential in terms of business acumen, creating a culture in his work that I was keenly aware of. He brought that culture home as well.

What’s your go-to app on your phone? Flight Track Pro and Uber… I’m always on the go.

What is a personal or professional obstacle you’ve overcome? When I was getting remarried and in the midst of blending families, I chose to step down from a nursing manager position. This was an especially difficult decision because, at the time, I was the last manager to be hired without a bachelor’s degree. So I knew I wouldn’t be eligible to go back into a management role without a degree.  The next job I had was as a case manager for a newly developed physician-hospital organization; they were part of system-wide patient satisfaction team. That positon led to me getting my first patient experience role. It was the catalyst to getting into patient experience. I subsequently went on to earn both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees while blending a family which was a great challenge in and of itself.

What are some patient experience initiatives we can look forward to in the future? As we continue to progress and mature our employee and nurse leader rounding frameworks, we’re preparing for the next important evolution of rounding – hourly rounding. This involves getting nurses more involved at the bedside with a proactive approach to quality, safe care. Hourly Rounding is an important clinical practice that will enhance our nursing team’s efficiency and their ability to proactively respond to patient’s needs. We are really excited to be preparing for this important next step!

Hourly Rounding