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Women in Leadership: Insights from Amber Barna, Chief Clinical Officer

January 8, 2024

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Megan Bebout

JanBlog-minWe’re not your average healthcare staffing agency — we’re a ✨cool ✨ healthcare staffing agency, thanks to Fusion Medical Staffing leadership. Among our team of changemakers is chief clinical officer Amber Barna, MSN, RN.

After 25+ years of being in healthcare, we sat down to learn more about Amber’s experience as a registered nurse, her transition into healthcare staffing, and her vision for the healthcare industry moving forward. Let’s see what she had to say!

 

Women in Leadership: Insights from Amber Barna, Chief Clinical Officer

 

What you should know about Amber

Amber Barna (2)-minAn accomplished senior healthcare leader and nurse, Amber serves as Fusion Medical Staffing’s chief clinical officer, joining the company in 2023. Amber leads strategic management of Fusion Medical Staffing’s clinical and compliance departments, including policies, procedures, and best practices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of healthcare professionals and patients, with a passion for positively impacting patient care. 

Prior to joining Fusion Medical Staffing, Amber had 15 years of experience in the medical staffing industry, serving in roles of increasing responsibility including overseeing the delivery of nursing care, negotiating contracts for maintaining clinician credentialing, and presenting and executing sales strategies to leadership at affiliate hospitals. 

Amber spent a decade in the clinical setting early in her career. She holds several academic credentials, including a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) on the Executive Leadership Track from the Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing; and she is an honoree of the SIA Global Power 150 Women in Staffing list.  

Q&A with Fusion Medical Staffing’s chief clinical officer

Megan Bebout: Hi Amber! Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re excited to pick your brain. First, can you give us a glimpse into who you are?

Amber Barna: Hi, thank you for having me! Yes, so something I’m super proud of is I’m a breast cancer survivor. They called it between stage two and three because it was a little in my lymph nodes (she said so casually), but I did 16 rounds of chemo and a whole year of IV therapy.

Another fun fact is I have two boys — one’s a freshman in high school and one’s a senior, so that’s my life right now. They’re both in sports, so we do a lot of sitting at baseball and soccer games. But in my family, we’re huge outdoor people! We love to sit outside on a patio or in the winter, go sledding. If it’s outdoors, we’re there.

post143-11235_Original-minMB: I really admire that! You mentioned your son is a senior in high school. Can we go back in time and talk about you when you were in high school? Did you always know you wanted to be a nurse?

AB: This is going to sound wild, but when I was a kid, I remember I used to get really bad migraines; they started in elementary school. I remember going to the doctor’s office and I was always just entranced by the nurses who would check me in. They’d do all the symptoms screening, blood pressure, height, weight, all of that, and I just thought that was the coolest thing.

I used to tell my mom, “I want to help people.” I thought maybe I’d want to be a teacher because I loved making these fake papers and then grading them. But it was like every time I went to the doctor’s office, I was just enamored watching the nurses.

Early on in high school, I realized I wanted to go to nursing school. Initially, I wanted to go to nursing school, work as an RN, and then go back to medical school. So, through high school, I knew I wanted to do an accelerated RN program. I found College of Saint Mary and found out I could do this accelerated two-year program and get my RN at 20 years old. I thought it would be great, I would work, and it would help me in med school. I had all these ideas.

Related: ADN vs BSN: Which Nursing Degree is Right For You?

What happened was I got my associate degree in nursing and decided to get my Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. But then I started dating my husband. Before, I always thought I would never get married because I wanted to work. I wanted to do diagnostic cardiology, which means you’re on-call all the time, and I thought that wouldn’t be conducive to a family — I’d just be the cool aunt.

But I met my husband and realized maybe I did want to get married and have kids, so I ended up getting my bachelor’s in business and finishing up at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I thought I would run a nursing unit or hopefully elevate within the hospital. Then I got my bachelor’s in nursing when I was working at my prior job and now, I have my master’s in nursing.

It was funny because I always knew that healthcare was my thing, but nursing was supposed to be my first step. I was going to be a doctor, but here I am, and I love where I am! Nursing’s been the coolest field.

MB: That’s so incredible. Can you talk about some of the different areas of nursing that you’ve worked in?

AB: Oh, yes! I’ve gotten to do bedside care for pediatrics, and I absolutely loved it. I floated a lot, which was really cool because I got to learn about all the different units. I did infection prevention for home care and the hospital.

Then, I got recruited from there. My boss at the time was going to run a systems program at Allegiant Health and I got on board. I got to cover three hospitals, plus home care, plus clinics, and did mock surveys and made sure the facilities were always ready for the Joint Commission.

My last job in the hospital was as house supervisor, where you run the hospital in the absence of management. It was really cool because I got to be a part of everything and interact with every department across the hospitals. I was then asked to be responsible for the float pools, making sure we had the right people in the right places and setting up reviews if they had to be done. I probably would’ve done that forever, but I was pregnant with our second son and realized I was working evenings and weekends.

One of my best friends was a recruiter for a staffing agency and I asked if she had anything for a nurse that didn’t involve travel. Crazily enough, they had just posted a job that day for an internal nurse, so I applied, got it, and now I’ve been in staffing for 15 years.

MB: Wow, so you’ve dabbled in many areas of nursing. What was your favorite part about working as a nurse?

AB: Honestly, I would have to say out of everything I’ve had the opportunity to do as a nurse, my favorite part was when I had the chance to spend time with a patient and know that I made a difference. Just knowing that was a pretty incredible feeling.

The other thing that sticks out for me is my mom works for a busy family practice, and she would never know any of the people that I treated because of HIPPA, but she actually had two different patients recognize me from a photo on her desk and share with her how I positively impacted their lives.

Being able to be there and knowing that I made a difference for somebody in a time that’s really terrible, for me, fills my cup.

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MB: That’s so special and I can definitely see how that would fill your cup! Now, thinking about your 10+ years in nursing, what made you pursue a career change into the staffing side of healthcare?

AB: Really, I knew that I loved solving the puzzle. As a house supervisor, you would have to do staffing for the hospital and you would have to think: “Ok, who do we have? Do we have a float pool? Do we need to bring in agency? Where can we move permanent staff around?” It was like a puzzle to do the greatest good.

When I looked at a lot of different jobs where maybe I could have a Monday through Friday-type schedule, I landed on staffing. With healthcare staffing, I knew I could have an impact from coast to coast. There are patients all over the country who need clinicians and if we can do things to make sure those travel clinicians have support and we can help them feel successful, then I think of all the patients they’re impacting. With healthcare staffing, I’m caring for the caregivers who are caring for the patients, and that’s a really cool thing to me.

MB: That’s so true! With so much experience in the field, looking ahead, what changes do you anticipate in the healthcare staffing industry?

AB: I think over the next two years, we’re going to see the industry level out a little more and follow the more traditional pattern of peaks and valleys of contingent labor. It’s been a stressful three years for everyone, and I think that we’re going to see over the next couple years where we as healthcare partners can enhance our impact, whether that's with clients through Fusion Workforce Solutions or by increasing job satisfaction for our travelers.

The best part is we already have incredible marketing and technology teams who are innovative and always thinking about how we can make a better impact. Our teams are already pushing for that.

MB: That’s a great insight, thank you! So after 15 years in healthcare staffing, what brought you to Fusion Medical Staffing?

AB: I was actually reached out to by our recruitment team, and eventually met with several people in leadership. Every time I met with somebody, I went from, “I think I can take a call” to “I think I can provide real value and I want to be there.” I was so impressed with what we’re trying to do with our mission of making a positive impact and improving the lives of everyone we touch, so I thought it would be a great fit, and I’m so happy to be here.

MB: We’re so happy you’re here! Can you share some of the projects you’ve been part of since joining the Fusion Medical Staffing executive team?

AB: One of the things that I’m really proud of is being the executive sponsor for our staffing optimization initiative. We’re looking all the way from how the traveler would find Fusion Medical Staffing to the first contact with our travelers all the way through to when they get their assignment to make sure that we’re providing the best processes for both our internal employees and travelers to be successful. The whole company is coming together to make sure our traveler journey is the absolute best in the industry.

Another thing I’ve been part of is working with our clinical division to pair up with some of our recruitment teams to proactively reach out to travelers and let them know about our clinical team, what they have to offer, what we do, and how we can support them. That’s been super exciting.

MB: That’s a brilliant idea. Our clinical team is *chef’s kiss* and everyone should know how amazing they are. In your experience at Fusion Medical Staffing, what do you think makes us the best?

AB: At the core of everything, Fusion Medical Staffing was created around providing an experience for our travelers that is the best and we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure we have the finger on the pulse to know what people actually want. We’re always listening to our travelers, and I’ve seen so much around traveler feedback and how many different avenues we ask for feedback, and I think that’s huge. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything launched here that wasn’t around traveler feedback. Our travelers are part of our team, they’re part of our family.

MB: Yeah, they are! Shoutout to our travelers! Thinking about all the things that make us stand out from other agencies, what is your personal favorite thing about Fusion Medical Staffing?

AB: The way our internal teammates talk to our travelers on the phone. They’re having real conversations and building genuine relationships and the care I hear is inspiring. We’re making an impact, and that’s my number one priority.

MB: That’s so true! Ok, last question — what are some key lessons you’ve learned in your 25+ years of healthcare that you want others to know?

AB: One of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned, and this applies to life in general, is that the number one thing is that our communication can always be improved. We should always be working on improving our communication because when we look at unforeseen incidents, it almost always boils down to a lack of communication or miscommunication. So, one of the things that I’ve found is that being very clear in how I communicate, making sure I’m asking for exactly what I need, making sure I’m restating information and not feeling silly asking for clarification really matters. I think communication is something I’m always working on myself, and I think it’s the central part of everything we do.

MB: 10/10, excellent advice. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experiences with us!

AB: Oh, of course. Thank you for thinking of me!

 

 

With leaders like Amber, you know you’re in good hands when you travel with us. Whether you’re new to the industry or you’ve been around the block a few times, you’re sure to find the support, encouragement, and resources you need to feel successful at Fusion Medical Staffing.

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