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University of Sioux Falls (USF) Healthcare MBA Student Applies Lessons in Real Time

May 25, 2017 08:57AM ● By Alex Strauss

By: Alex Strauss

Jim Hardwick has a lot in common with his kids. Like his high school daughter and college son he will soon experience (once again) what it's like to be a new graduate. But unlike the kids, who are preparing for their next adventures, Hardwick, a Physician Assistant and the CEO of Pierre-based Rural Healthcare, Inc. is already living his.

“The organization I currently work for had a sudden change in leadership in 2011 and I was asked to step into the role of CEO,” says Hardwick, whose background is in Emergency and Internal Medicine. “To be honest, when they first asked, I told them no. This is clearly not what I was trained and educated for.”

Although he had been a paramedic, a police officer, a PA, and long-time Hughes County commissioner (in his 14th year), Hardwick felt overwhelmed by the prospect of taking the helm of a company. He finally relented when the Board of Directors appealed to his sense of compassion for the families who stood to lose their livelihoods if the company went under.

“At that time, we had 45 employees in six communities and the organization had no money,” says Hardwick. “It was personal for me. They were going to be devastated if someone didn’t try.”

So Hardwick agreed to try, although the learning curve was steep.[AC1] 

“It didn’t take very long to know that I needed to help myself a lot if I was going to continue to do what I was doing,” says Hardwick, who began working toward his Healthcare MBA through the University of Sioux Falls last summer. All of his classes are online and he will complete the 2-year program in 2018.

The flexibility and convenience of USF’s online option was a big point in the program’s favor for Hardwick, who lives in Fort Pierre. So was the opportunity to engage with classmates virtually through interactive projects. Despite his very full life, Hardwick says he has welcomed the stimulation and challenge of the Healthcare MBA program, much of which he has already used.

“When I finished the accounting course, for someone who had never had accounting, it changed what I was doing day-to-day, almost immediately,” says Hardwick. “Likewise, my Business Law class changed how I approach things, how I notate and sign things.”

Just as importantly, Hardwick’s willingness to grow his knowledge has also impacted his company where both business and budget have grown by 300 percent under his guidance, allowing for the addition of three new facilities and expansion into Minnesota.

“It’s real time application. I am literally implementing things the next day by putting these things into practice,” he says. “I don’t have to wait for my next job—I’m using it every day.”

 [AC1]I think it would be a bit more powerful if this read, “So although the learning curve was steep, Hardwick agreed to try.”