An unexpected career in helping others
By Christina Brown
Deb Boardman never expected to be a hospital administrator.
“I never intended to work in health care,” said Boardman, who is retiring Dec. 22 as President and CEO at Fairview Range in Hibbing. I was a business major. My mom was a nurse, but I don’t like blood. A career in health care was the furthest thing from my mind.”
That changed when she became a business office manager at a nursing home in Grand Rapids.
“I thought this isn’t too bad,” Boardman recalled. “People always thought you went to a nursing home to die, but when you’re around 100 grandmas and grandpas every day, you see what a difference you can make in their lives. Even if you’re not involved with hands-on on care, you’re still a part of what can be the best or worst days of their lives and you can really have a positive impact.”
Boardman’s experience led her to get a health care management degree and her 36-year career in health care was born.
Boardman spent the last eight years with Fairview, serving as President and CEO of Fairview Range since 2010, and as President of the Fairview North Region since 2014.
During that time, Boardman worked diligently to transform the Fairview Range culture to one of transparency and openness and moved Fairview Range to a more closely aligned and collaborative relationship with the Fairview system.
“Hibbing is an anomaly in the Fairview system,” said Mike Raich, president of the Fairview Range Board of Directors. “Most of Fairview is metro and we’re in a rural, economically-challenged area. Deb has advocated for Hibbing to really be a part of the Fairview system and be supported well. Her leadership has been a big part of Fairview being so supportive of us.”
Boardman was also key in leading several initiatives both at Fairview Range and across the North Region including the implementation of Epic (the electronic patient records system) at Fairview Range, completing over $16 million in building projects, opening full-time oncology services at Fairview Range, the expansion of University of Minnesota Physicians specialty services into Hibbing, and continuing the development and growth of the North Region within the Fairview system.
“Deb has been a real health care advocate her whole career,” said Raich. “She has championed for rural health care and has led the hospital through some challenging times. She’s been a consistent visionary leader and her advocacy has made us a much stronger player in the health care system.”
Boardman oversaw numerous expansion and renovation projects that helped better serve patients in the emergency room, clinic, radiation therapy, behavioral health and beyond.
“I think I am most proud of our ability to offer oncology services here in Hibbing,” Boardman said. “It’s so hard to travel when you’re undergoing chemo. Being able to get compassionate cancer treatment close to home is so important. As the community ages, it will become even more important.”
Boardman also made recruiting and retaining quality health care professionals to Fairview Range a priority.
“It can be hard to get qualified people to rural areas,” said Boardman. “These are hard jobs. We’ve been really proactive in bringing people here and getting people who are already here additional training to help them qualify for more positions.”
Raich said, “She’s really respected for her work at the corporate and local levels. She empowers the people to do the work they're trained to do and she really respects those around her.”
Boardman has also cultivated a caring culture that has helped improve Fairview Range’s position as a health care leader.
“We measure patient satisfaction all the time,” said Boardman. “People expect that when they come to our hospital they will be safe and will receive quality care. When I get letters from patients, they don’t just say, ‘Thanks for saving my life.’ They talk about the empathy, the kindness and the caring they received here. That’s where I’ve seen a big change in how people see Fairview Range.”
Boardman pointed out that the accomplishments of her career are not hers alone. She gives credit to the 1,000 full-time and part-time employees at Fairview Range.
“When you’re the leader, you tend to get all the accolades,” said Boardman. “But it’s never just one person. It’s a team. It’s a joint effort. I’m proud to have been a part of this organization. I will miss the people the most.”
Boardman said when she retires she’ll be spending winters in Florida with her husband, but will return to Minnesota frequently to be with her grandchildren. She’s also interested in working with young people as a volunteer during her retirement.
Patrick Sharp, Chief Operating Officer of Fairview Range will step into the Interim CEO and President role in January 2018 and will continue to lead operations at Fairview Range. Patrick has been with Fairview Range for 10 years and has been the Chief Operating Officer since 2013.
“There’s a saying that you should leave places better than you found them and Deb Boardman has done that,” said Raich. “It will be a very smooth transition for Patrick Sharp and our leadership team.”
Deb Boardman, president & CEO of Fairview Range
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