HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – A financially viable community hospital is an important economic pillar. Without a hospital it is hard to recruit new physicians, young teachers with families, or to lure companies that will create jobs.

When a community hospital closes, especially in towns separated from definitive care by distance or geography, the community’s economic base begins to erode, and over time, many towns have reported declines in new business creation and retail spending. It can be the beginning of the end.

Across America today hundreds of hospitals sit empty, or there are vacant lots where vibrant community hospitals once stood. In many cases a mistake, or a series of mistakes, in selecting a CEO was a contributing factor. In other instances the board and the CEO were unable to creatively cope with changes in the reimbursement system, failed to engage their employees, failed to adapt to a changing competitive market, or failed to align the interests of the hospital and medical staff. These are all issues that an experienced CEO with the counsel of an informed governing board should be able to effectively address.

For a hospital governing board, recruiting a new CEO is, without debate, the most important job they have. There are enormous consequences to their actions.

When a CEO search results in a mis-hire, there are two issues that collide in the same room: a board that is not sure what they are looking for and they lack the recruiting experience to find it, and poorly prepared CEO candidates, the majority of which do a terrible job in communicating their value.

Boards mis-read the candidate warning signs — short tenures and frequent employment changes masked by candidate claims of great success. Even the good candidates run afoul of this because they do did not ask the hard questions that might lift the veil of intractable problems — terrible transparency and an operating and financial outlook that are two steps away from disaster.

There are steps that boards can take to avoid this type of train wreck. In 22 years of conducting rural and community hospital CEO searches, we have never had a mis-hire. This is not rocket science. Any board that is willing to establish a process and has the discipline to follow it, can succeed. That is why I wrote, Recruiting Your New CEO: A Step-by-Guide for Rural and Community Hospitals.

You can download this eBook on our website, www.johngself.com. It is free.

If you follow these steps you can significantly reduce the chances of making a costly mistake that lead to irreparable harm to your community.