Organizational Culture: The North Star in Healthcare

Apr 2, 2024 | Articles, Director Insights, Leadership

By Christianna Kearns

Culture is defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization. It’s bigger than just a set of ideals; it’s how we are seen in the community and the relationships we build by connecting with people from diverse backgrounds which make up the ecosystem of our working and learning environment. It is the piece of the puzzle that affects everything we do in healthcare, and the backbone of the company’s trajectory towards success. 

The importance of knowing your ‘why’

It begins by asking ourselves why we got into healthcare. Knowing your ‘why’ is essential to understand because it helps to connect the alignment of the core values of the organization with our own ideals. It’s about being honest with yourself and asking the tough questions about your thoughts, feelings, and belief systems to see if the two are parallel. It is our responsibility to ensure there is alignment within ourselves to the mission and values that the company upholds; it shapes the way we operate and maneuver in the company. Moreso, it molds the way we build rapport among staff,  patients, and connect with the surrounding community to create lasting relationships.

Finding my ‘why’ started with family. As a 10-year-old I often went to the doctor’s office for my grandpa’s appointments. I recall listening to the conversations and being immersed in the hospital environment. At a young age, I became vividly aware of the healthcare atmosphere by seeing the operations, the clinical staff working, and the medical staff meeting with patients. It had a profound effect on my outlook despite not fully understanding all that was going on. It awakened a passion within me. I remember making sure that my grandma was following doctor’s orders when preparing traditional Italian meals. I would repeat what the doctor said and tell my grandma  not to use any salt seasoning in my grandpa’s food to prevent any offsetting to his heart condition. 

This first-hand experience shaped my ‘why’ in healthcare. I knew this work was more meaningful that just having a job or career, it is inbred in my purpose. I started my journey in healthcare in the clinical setting  as a cardiac sonographer. It was an innate and natural progression into the healthcare field to help change lives and improve quality of life in the same manner my grandpa’s life was impacted by the healing hands of a hospital team. 

Cultivating Culture in A Changing Climate

Act as a sponge. Absorb new information, soak up the lessons, and be adaptable to the constant flow of changes.

Post the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how the landscape of healthcare changed within a blink of an eye. Learning to adapt to the fast changing environment provided our hospitals with a new found resilience to operate during unprecedented times. 

As we move into the next phase of healthcare and technology, AI is at the forefront of this genesis. There is a misconception about taking away jobs or robots ruling over humans. There will always be a necessity for human to human connection especially in the healthcare field. The dynamic touch from another human accelerates the healing process and reduces anxieties. AI can be our partner and used as a tool to advance the healthcare experience and strengthen the practices we already perform. It provides the opportunity to enhance our hospital processes by assisting  in our work processes, strengthening the relationship with patients and their families by allowing more face-to-face time, and collaborating with interdisciplinary teams.

As times continue to change, cultivating a strong organizational culture is vital to the health and structure of a company. In healthcare, it’s the north star for anchoring team members, patients, and the community with the mission and values that align with our ‘why’. This is key to keeping the center of support for organizations to continue to run efficiently and navigate through challenges that come along the way. 


Christianna Kearns, MBA, FACHE, is Associate Chief Operating Officer, Salinas Valley Health. She serves as President Elect of CAHL.