Like Queen Bey once sang: “Who run the world? Girls!” Especially in health care now that women officially outnumber men in the field. Why did it take so long for females to begin their climb to the top of the medical industry, you ask? Great question!
It’s custom in our society for women to be seen solely as caretakers, mothers, wives, and it’s been that way for decades. Being boxed into a specific stereotype can be frustrating, but things are a-changin’! We’re in the middle of a societal transformation where women in health care have unapologetically started to use their voices to ask for what they want, advocate for their fellow females, and change the way they’re perceived altogether. Women are building influence in whatever they want to do at work and at home, and the hard truth is they’re nothing short of badasses.
10 Insights from Women in Health Care
Lucky for all the young women new to the market, there have already been many influential females who came before you who have already started to pave the way to success so you can have more health care career options than ever before. And they have something to say. These are 10 insights from successful women in health care.
No. 1: You are more than your work
Through vigorous research and studies, we’ve learned that Imposter Syndrome is real and many females are familiar with it. Kate Thomas, Vice-Dean of Birmingham Medical School, Dr. Anthea Mowat, elected Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), and Yvonne Sawbridge, senior fellow at the Health Services Management Centre, all agree they’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome during their careers.
“It’s a worrying belief that you’re going to be ‘found out’ as not being good enough for the job,” Dr. Mowat explained. “You feel you should work better and harder than everyone else just to keep up, which has negative consequences for your wellbeing and other aspects of your life.”
Kate also offered her two cents, “Be positive about yourself and what you’re capable of,” she said. “This can be a difficult skill as many are afraid of appearing overconfident but being positive about yourself allows the recruiter to see your potential.”
Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a super cool med traveler and embracing your authentic self will make you a better care provider.
No. 2: Find a mentor that cares
Whether you’re a new traveler or a seasoned professional, it’s always nice to have someone looking out for you. The world of medical travel can be a wild ride, so a solid support system is a must.
“It can be lonely when you take on new roles as you may leave your friends and there may be different dynamics with your new colleagues,” said Kate. “Having someone to talk to who has a wealth of experience and knowledge can help when you have a challenging decision to make.”
Carla Smith, executive vice president of the Health Care Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), also believes women should have easy access to a reliable and helpful mentor.
“You need a mentor who you believe believes in you,” said Carla. “Don’t just look for a mentor that you admire.”
Studies have proven that those who have a mentor are better equipped to handle the stress of their position and are more prepared to mentor others when the time comes—and that’s exactly why Fusion created the Mentorship Program.
Through the Fusion Mentorship Program, you’ll be matched with a travel mentor that vibes with who you are as a person. Or, if you’re interested, you can become the ever so wise and powerful mentor that helps other travelers find their footing. Learn more about our Mentorship Program!
No. 3: Culture is cool
The environment where you work also matters. When you work in an unpleasant or unhealthy environment, it can cause burnout, high turnover rates, and more.
Work with a staffing agency with a culture that makes you feel like you’re exactly where you belong, and you too can reap all the benefits of a constructive and healthy work culture like better teamwork, increased job satisfaction, and less overall stress. You should feel empowered to be your best self in and outside of work.
“Make sure the culture of the company you work with reflects the promotion of gender diversity,” said Claire Verity, CEO of UnitedHealthcare. “Not just a check-the-box exercise but something that truly demonstrates how its culture, policy, and behaviors reflect an inclusive environment. If it doesn’t, drive the change that is needed.”
No. 4: The sky’s the limit
It’s true that only 13 percent of health care CEOs are women, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get to the top. The future of females in health care includes women in the pipeline ready to move into critical roles and more professionals who act as mentors to prepare the next generation to move into the C-suite. The sky’s the limit, lady.
Karen Lynch, executive vice president of CVS Health and president of Aetna, said her success started with her mentor moving her into critical jobs and steering her career path in the “right direction.”
“Be courageous,” Karen said. “Seek experiences outside of your comfort zone. Take risks and try unique and different roles, because it can really propel your career.”
Christy Dempsey, DNP, wishes she would’ve gotten this advice when she was first beginning her career. “As a woman, it may be difficult to get to the leadership table,” she said. “Don’t stop trying. It’s easier now than it was, and it will be up to you to make it easier for future generations.”
You’re not doing this alone. There’s an army of women (and men) standing behind you ready to steer you towards the direction of your career goals—from recruiters to other travelers, we know you can do anything you put your mind to.
No. 5: Growth is uncomfy
“Growth and comfort do not coexist,” said Tricia Smith Edris, Senior Vice President and Chief Consumer Officer for AdventHealth. “The ability to recognize a good, but challenging, opportunity and fight the urge to run the other way is a skill.”
They say the only way out is through, right? The more medical experience you get, the more travel assignments you have, and the more continued education you’ve completed, the less scary growth will be. At that point, it’ll feel natural, and you’ll jump at the opportunity to tackle a tough challenge.
“At times, embracing change can be a challenge,” said Carin Hagberg, Chief Academic Officer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “But change is an opportunity for growth and further development.”
Grow through what you go through, sweet cheeks. It gets easier.
No. 6: Diversity, equity, and inclusion really are all they’re cracked up to be
It’s a natural human desire to want to fit in and be cherished for who you truly are in every way. When it comes to a workplace, diversity and inclusion can make or break your experience.
Diversity is the collection of your unique characteristics that make you you, whereas inclusivity is the intentional practice of accepting and treating others with respect. Equity is like equality, but where equality treats everyone the same, equity acknowledges that each individual is different and distributes the necessary opportunities to create an equal outcome.
“To have a diverse environment, there must be an inclusive atmosphere,” said Fusion travelers, Amanda and Tori Stewart, RNs. “Diversity in the workplace gives a ton of opportunities to learn! We have learned about cultures across the globe…it has helped us immensely in our travels across the country. Diversity helps patients as much as it helps workers!”
As a professional medical worker, it’s your duty to provide the best care possible to your patients—diversity and inclusion help you better understand and represent a patient in their time of need.
Dr. Luz Claudio added, “Having a diverse community of [medical workers] and scientists helps make our work better not just for people of color but for all people needing to improve their health.”
No. 7: Believe in yourself, babe
It’s tough to be confident. For everyone, even badass bosses like you.
“I wish I would’ve stopped questioning myself earlier,” said Christy Lemak, PhD. “This is more than lacking confidence. There is evidence that women leaders spend time 'ruminating' about what they could have or should have done differently—or whether or not they are ‘good enough’ for the next job.”
Don’t let fear or doubt consume you and instead, try to mute the negative voice in your head that fills you with lies. Take a gamble on yourself. Be your biggest cheerleader.
And finally, as Allyson Kinzel, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at The University of Texas, said, “Find confidence, gratitude, and humor wherever you can—these three things will make the tough times easier to bear.”
No. 8: With great power comes great responsibility
It’s not a secret that all medical professionals hold great power with their knowledge and skills. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
“It is imperative to understand the great responsibility that comes with your role as a female leader,” said Vinitia Mathews, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Patient Experience Officer at LifePoint Health. “Your words and actions impact not only your own legacy but also the ability for others to follow in the path you create.”
As a medical professional, you are responsible for the lives of patients. As a woman, you’re responsible for your family, according to societal norms.
“Women play a critical role in health care as the primary decision-maker of care for their families,” said Jennifer Meade, Division President of Breast and Skeletal Health Solutions at Hologic. “In fact, new research has shown a positive correlation between female [med workers] and patient outcomes, especially when female [med workers] are treating female patients.”
No. 9: Consistency is key
As a med professional, consistency is a secret weapon. It’s important that your teammates know what to expect from you in each assignment—consistency shows them that they can rely on you when things get tough.
Becky Speight, CFO and Administrator of Crescent Medical Center, said consistency is a trait that became increasingly more important to her as her health care career blossomed.
“In our hectic health care environment, consistency is a way to build trust that lasts,” she said. “I think Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson says it best: ‘Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.’"
You should also practice consistency with your patient care—consistency of care means “low variability in care from shift to shift, day to day.” Basically, treat all your patients with the same level of care and attention because they deserve it.
No. 10: Be humble, driven, and positive
Let’s play a fun game of Fusion jeopardy! Here’s the question: She started her Fusion career as the OG Marketing guru, she’s a fearless leader, and recently won the Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) 40 Under 40 award.
If you answered, “Who is Tara Sprakel,” you’re right on the money!
As Fusion’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Tara knows what it means to be HBIC—head babe in charge. Before she climbed her way to the top, Tara helped get Fusion’s marketing division off the ground, which included creating the business brand, identity, social media presence, digital footprint, lead generation, and then some. Now, Tara leads several teams like Marketing, Sales, Public Relations, and more. To say that Tara is a rockstar would be an understatement.
With more than a decade of experience, Tara has picked up a thing or two. We asked her to share her words of wisdom and she did not disappoint. Here’s what Tara said.
Q&A with Fusion’s CMO, Tara Sprakel
Megan Bebout: Hi Tara! Congratulations on your 40 Under 40 award! That is so exciting. What was your reaction when you learned you won 40 Under 40?
Tara Sprakel: Hi Megan, thank you! When I learned I won the 40 Under 40 award, I was shocked, grateful, and a bit anxious about the amount of attention that comes with this award. I am trained to be the leader for all of the women (and employees) at Fusion and take the recognition when it is given with grace, but that’s really hard to do when you want to stay humble and grounded. It’s important to remember what it was like in the roles or phases in life as part of the journey to where you are, but it’s also okay to acknowledge and celebrate personal and professional accomplishments in the moment. I am trying to relax and enjoy this point in my career, but it’s also so very important to reflect on who helped me get here and how I can bring more people along on this journey with me.
MB: Well, we’ll be the first to say that you earned this award and deserve all the recognition and praise that comes along with it! Fusion wouldn’t be where we are today without you. On that note, how does it feel to be able to represent Fusion with a placement like this on a list as prestigious as SIA’s 40 Under 40?
TS: Fusion has been positively impacting my life for nearly 11 years and I am humbled daily to not only be trusted to lead this company, but represent an award-winning culture, world-class employees, best brand in the industry, and live our core values daily. This place is truly special and, I may be biased here, but I believe we should have placements on this list every year because there are so many talented people within these walls that are worthy of the honor. I am very grateful to be able to give back to Fusion in any way I am able and look forward to impacting more employee’s lives the way Fusion has impacted mine.
MB: I may also be biased, but I would tend to agree with everything you said! Fusion is the best. So, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned throughout your career at Fusion?
TS: This one should be obvious to me as a marketing professional, but it actually took a long time to figure out. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to speak to your colleagues (aka your audience) in their language, use rewards that motivate them (not you), deliver presentations in their preferred way of consuming information, know their motives and personal goals, and help them achieve them. Leadership is not helping people follow your path, it’s helping them advance on their own. Everyone has a different idea of what success and their future looks like and we need to help them realize that. Business and career decisions are not one-size-fits-all.
MB: That’s so true and incredibly valuable! Alright, to wrap us up, can you offer some insight to new professionals entering the workforce?
TS: Absolutely! I would say to be confident in your abilities and unique experiences and speak up! Just because you may be at a more junior level does not mean that your life experiences or knowledge is of any less value. I think the buzzword “Imposter Syndrome” gets thrown around too much. We are all as good as we believe we are and are fully qualified to perform in the positions you were hired for. With the right knowledge and drive, you can achieve anything, but it takes self-confidence. Different perspectives and ideas is what makes us great and propels innovation, which is so important in our industry right now.
MB: I love that! I will be taking that advice to heart myself. Thank you again for chatting with us, Tara, and another big congratulations on this milestone!
Women in health care have been making a difference in our society for centuries, even if it wasn’t always outwardly known by the public. Where women were previously perceived in only one role, these inspirational ladies in health care have flipped the narrative to prove to the world that females are valuable and necessary in the medical industry and everywhere else. As you embark on your next travel job, hold onto these words of advice to lift you up when you need it.