“Somehow it all just fits”
By Alex Strauss
When Kelly King, Director of Nursing at Sioux Falls Specialty Hospital, decided to go back to school in the Fall of 2011, she knew that what she did not need was more education in the nursing profession. King, who graduated from Mt. Marty college in Yankton in the 1980’s, hit the ground running in Mobridge, working in areas ranging from pediatrics and OB to the ER and the ICU at the town’s small hospital. “It was an excellent place for a new RN to start her nursing career,” she says.
Within a few years, King moved to Sioux Falls and took a position as a staff RN in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU) at what was then the Sioux Falls Surgical Hospital.
That was 25 years ago. When the hospital changed its licensure to become a specialty hospital in 1996, King stepped up to manage the new recovery care unit. Today, as Director of Nursing, King’s duties have moved beyond just the clinical to include environmental services, clinical informatics, quality, infection prevention, and employee health for the 35-bed facility. But as her responsibilities continued to grow, King felt that there was still one area in which she was lacking - business.
“In a position like mine, you are required to make a lot of decisions and a lot of the decisions I have to make are business decisions,” says King. “So it was almost like a catch-up. I had the clinical side. I had the leadership side. But I knew that I needed to understand the business side of medicine better. I wanted to be a valuable voice at the table. That is why I decided on an MBA instead of a Masters in Nursing.”
King chose the Healthcare MBA program at the University of Sioux Falls which was both close and flexible for a working person with a family. For just over two years, King and her cohort of healthcare professionals from around the region, met every Wednesday evening. She spent her weekends writing and studying.
One of the first things King says she learned in the program was respect for her fellow students. “I was the second oldest person in my cohort and at first I thought ‘Gee, how much are these younger people really going to be able to contribute to the discussion?’,” King recalls, somewhat sheepishly. “But I quickly learned how conceited that was. I learned an enormous amount from every individual in the program and we all learned to appreciate our varying perspectives. In a way, we really mentored each other.”
In addition to giving her the business acumen she was after, King says her MBA also turned out to be a journey of self-discovery. Through a required self-assessment, she uncovered what she calls her “heart for volunteerism”, which led her to help establish SFSH’s Employee Driven Group Events (EDGE) program to support employee volunteerism. “I would say that that class sparked a light and helped develop that in our organization,” says King.
King credits a good portion of her success in pursuing her MBA to her family’s support (her hubby hired a cleaning service for their home and her children gave her school supplies), and has this advice for other busy professionals considering additional education:
“Somehow it all fits. You shift things around. You study when you can. After you graduate, you wonder ‘How did I make time for that?’ But somehow, if you want it, you just do.”