Suzanne Shea Shares the Importance of Teamwork at Sharp HealthCare

For over thirty years, Suzanne Shea has developed expertise in a wide range of areas, including Joint Commission quality indicators, error reduction, transitions of care, and pharmacy IT. Before bringing her leadership to Sharp HealthCare, Shea oversaw pharmacy operations for large hospital systems including Cardinal Health and Kaiser Permanente.

But to Shea, some of her greatest takeaways were about leadership. Namely, the importance of teamwork.

“You can’t do anything by yourself. Sometimes, there are leaders who want to make all the decisions and take everything on by themselves or have a very small group of people that they make decisions with. But less is not more. More is more,” she reflects. “You should always include other people and every time you do, you learn something. That ability to absorb that doesn’t make you an expert, but it makes you knowledgeable and allows you to contribute to the conversation or to at least walk a mile in another person’s shoes.”

That perspective is vital for her current role at Sharp Healthcare, a nonprofit system based in San Diego with four acute care hospitals, three specialty hospitals, three medical groups, and a health plan. As vice president of system pharmacy and clinical nutrition, Shea is responsible for creating consistency across several pharmacies. That kind of responsibility necessitates a diverse team that leverages their respective areas expertise to achieve the best outcomes for patients.

Suzanne Shea Sharp HealthCare
Photo Courtesy of Matt Eisenberg/Sharp HealthCare

“With six different [pharmacies], you can easily have six different versions of doing everything, so our job has been to bring everyone together,” says Shea, whose team is comprised of managers supporting regulatory and compliance, clinical, IT and informatics, experiential education, and clinical nutrition. “Everyone on my team looks out across what we’re doing in pharmacy and develops policies, procedures, and processes that’ll benefit the organization as a whole and help us align.”

Since Shea came to the organization in 2018, the team has made several strides in bridging gaps and fostering system-wide cohesion. In addition to supporting a computer conversion since 2022 and expanding the pharmacy residency program, they have expanded and updated Sharp’s centralized pharmacy services, implemented a system drug formulary committee and created a remote order review team. Shea credits those accomplishments to her collaborative team, which they jokingly call a “pharmily.”

“I’m really fortunate to have a really great team filled with really smart people,” Shea says. “Everyone works together, and I bring them in to help figure out solutions every single day. You really can’t do this kind of work alone.”

Pharmacy wasn’t always in the cards for Shea. She initially wanted to pursue marine biology, but a trip to her local grocery store planted a different seed.

“I went to the pharmacy and there was a woman there, which was really unusual back then,” she says. “She was an inspiration. From there, I thought pharmacy looked like a good way to combine science and helping people.”

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Shea worked at a small community hospital in the Dallas area. Because of its size, she got a chance to work in every department and learned about all kinds of patients. She worked her way up to assistant director of pharmacy, a role that helped her hone her leadership skills and to learn about new pharmacy technology.

“I got a lot of opportunities to learn about different areas and to learn what everyone did,” she says. “Everything from moms delivering new babies to the cancer unit, the large intensive care unit, and the cardiac unit.”

In 1993, she moved on to Cardinal Health where she served as director of pharmacy at two different hospitals, oversaw a group of hospitals as a district manager, and led pharmacies in multiple states as vice president of national accounts. By the time she left the organization, she was vice president of operations for all of the systems’ pharmacies across the country. Thereafter, she continued her journey at Kaiser Permanente and Comprehensive Pharmacy Services.

In 2018, Shea was drawn to Sharp Healthcare due to the interesting nature of the role.

“I was not only interested in the vice president of system pharmacy title but the clinical nutrition aspect of it,” she says. “What crossed my mind was that those are two very different departments, and I thought it would be exciting to work with them in a way that allows them to support each other.”

Shea stayed because of the company’s culture. At every level, Sharp Healthcare values the “Sharp experience,” a code that guides how employees treat each other and their patients.

“If I’m in a meeting with you and I’m not treating you how you should be treated, it’s easy to step aside and say, ‘I’m sorry, that wasn’t the Sharp experience,’” she says. “Having that standard gives us a way to have candid conversations and to be reminded of the values we hold as an organization.”

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The post Suzanne Shea Shares the Importance of Teamwork at Sharp HealthCare appeared first on American Healthcare Leader.

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