Who wants a career where the main goal is to make others successful? Shannon Hendrix does. As senior vice president and administrator of Arkansas Children’s Northwest, her role is twofold.
She oversees the operation of the entire hospital and drives the facility’s strategic plan. A regular day may involve phone calls or emails relating to the outside community, establishing new partnerships and working with foundations. But, regardless of her demanding schedule, Hendrix prioritizes visiting the staff a few times a week to ask them what’s working, what’s going well, and what are the current challenges.
For Hendrix, much of her day involves problem-solving. She hears a need, works to fill it — and she loves it.
“From our patients and families to our team members, being in the position to make a difference every day in children’s lives and being in the position to help others be successful in their roles are the best parts of this job,” she said.
When she talks about helping others be successful, she’s referring to every employee at the hospital whether they work with patients directly or not: physicians, service staff, maintenance workers… Hendrix’s goal is to provide whatever resources they need.
“My job is to see others succeed,” she said.
Problem-solving is a skill Hendrix and her team continuously employ, especially when it comes to patient experience. If there are obstacles in the workflow or challenges in the facility, the team asks themselves how they can make the experience better for patients.
“One of the things I think that’s so unique about being in the pediatric world is we focus on the whole family unit,” Hendrix noted. “It’s not just about the child because the family has to be able to take care of that child and provide a safe environment for them. So, it’s exiting when we’re able to identify a way to help a family.”
Recently, the team encountered a family who had just adopted a child and was understandably concerned about insurance coverage. “They weren’t sure how they would be able to pay the medical bills,” Hendrix remembered. A hospital member sat down with the family and walked them through the steps to ensure they would be covered by insurance and not crippled by medical bills.
“Small wins like that — being able to make that happen for a family — it makes it all worth it.”
Unusual career path
Hendrix took an interesting path toward the job she holds today, beginning with a degree in nutrition. After her first year working for Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock, the young clinical dietician realized she wanted to go beyond that role and found a job with Sysco Foods as a health care specialist. There, she wrote menus for nursing homes, day care centers and prisons. Then, she began traveling for work and was introduced to the world of sales. Intrigued with pharmaceutical sales, Hendrix transitioned into that role while maintaining her dietitian skills as a consultant to local hospitals.
During one of her consulting interviews, it was revealed that the facility was actually looking for a food director. Hendrix walked out of that meeting with a job offer that launched her career in leadership.
Eventually, she found her way over to Children’s as a clinical nutrition director. She was promoted to vice president of clinical services a few years later and then gradually learned the ropes before taking over as chief administrator one year ago.
“I feel like my career has for sure been organic. One opportunity led to another,” Hendrix saids. “But I think it has also been about being open to opportunity and really identifying mentors along the way who could help guide me in the right direction. I think it’s more about being proactive about your future and setting yourself up for success.”
Plans for growth
Now, as the SVP and chief administrator, Hendrix has big plans for the future of the hospital. Two years into a five-year plan, the leadership team has been working toward transforming Children’s Northwest from a community hospital into an anchor pediatric institution.
“I think for me, my hope is that we will continue to grow and be able to meet the needs of the community,” Hendrix noted. “And one of the things we’ve been aggressively doing is trying to recruit positions to the area.”
The lack of specialists in NWA forces many families to go out of state in search of doctors.
“One of our goals is to keep kids closer to home so they can get the care they need here without having to travel to Tulsa or surrounding cities,” Hendrix said. “We hope to increase our footprint here in Northwest Arkansas so we’re able to keep kids closer to home.”
Growing the hospital’s reach could potentially mean opening new sites. The team is currently working on a master-facilities plan for the next three to five years. In the meantime, primary care physician offices have been moved to the office building across the street to make room for growth in the main building.
“We’re starting to have those conversations on what that next phase of growth will look like for Arkansas Children’s and all the plans, of course, have not been completely finalized,” Hendrix said. “We are looking at what our next footprint will look like in this area.”
Another aspect Hendrix feels strongly about expanding is the hospital’s research capabilities.
“It would be exciting to be able to conduct clinical trials here eventually,” she added. “This could include formalizing a research and education department and partnering with professionals in the community.”